Research published in the Journal of Pediatrics reports a 3x increase in children seeking care for dog bite injuries at a Colorado hospital during the pandemic. The researchers noted that this trend likely spread beyond this one hospital.
In January 2019, the hospital reported 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Over April and May of 2019, the rate increased. In July 2019, the rate reached a peak of 7 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits.
Fast forward to January 2020, which also saw 3 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits – same as the previous January. By May 2020, there were about 13 dog bite injuries per 1,000 ER visits. Dog bite injuries continued to rise after Colorado lifted its stay-at-home order that April.
A New York Times article attributed the rise in part to so-called pandemic puppies. Owners may not have planned to bring these pets home during 2020. In some cases, these were complete impulse decisions. Who expected to be home this long? Because of that, owners may not have been prepared to train and care for puppies. There was also decreased access to dog trainers.
Children had increased exposure to puppies during those shelter in place days. Children usually have more contact with dogs when finish school for the summer. Here, children began spending more time with dogs in March of 2020. As children stayed home, parents struggled to balance home-schooling and their own jobs and may not have been supervising children near dogs as closely.
Dog bites are traumatic and can be life-threatening for young children. At Breakstone, White & Gluck, our personal injury lawyers know no one completely realizes how vicious a dog can be when it attacks. Training a dog is one step to help prevent a dog attack. Just as important is keeping a dog on a leash at all times. You never know what may trigger your dog to bite or attack. Even well behaved and calm dogs have unexpectedly attacked young children. One incident can be all it takes to change a child’s life forever.
A 2020 study shows just how important it is for parents or relatives to factor in a child’s age when bringing home a dog. Children under 11 were three times more likely than older children to be admitted to the hospital, according to the study, which was authored by a physician at UMass Memorial Medical School in Worcester. Younger children were also more likely to be admitted to the hospital.
Children age 1 through 10 were more likely to suffer open wounds to the head, neck and lower body. The study reviewed more than 6,300 hospital admissions from the Kids’ Inpatient Database during 2006, 2009 and 2012. One third of the patients had injuries so severe they required surgery.
Tips to Keep a Safe Dog After COVID-19
If you have a dog, we suggest the following tips to protect your children, family and neighbors from a dog bite injury:
- Always keep your dog leashed and under control when you are outside your home.
- Continue to limit guests to your home as COVID-19 restrictions get lifted.
- Secure your dog when guests come over.
- Do not leave your dog alone with your children or other children.
- Be aware that younger children have a higher likelihood of injury to their neck or head.
- Also be aware that many children suffer dog bites from their family pet or from pets they know well.
- Train your dog and socialize them.
- Consult your veterinarian or a dog trainer.
- Walk your dog outside on a leash a few times a day so it can get some exercise.
- Give your dog some personal attention each day.
- Recognize that dogs may be more likely to bite when they are gathering or protecting belongings. This is called “resource guarding.”
- Build a fence.
If you brought home a pandemic puppy, you have some planning to do since your dog has limited exposure to other people. Keep your dog on a leash when outside or when you have guests over. With all dogs, it is critical to ease your dog back into the social experience of being around guests at your home, including close friends and extended family members.
Building a fence in your backyard may also be a good spring project. A fence keeps your dog out of sight from your neighbors and their children. When children see a dog, they are more likely to want to approach and pet it. But as a dog owner, you must remember it’s devastating for a child to suffer a dog bite injury. The law on liability is also strict in Massachusetts. You can be held liable if your dog bites a young child, even if the child went onto your property without permission. The law recognizes that young children may not realize they are stepping toward danger. Your dog doesn’t have to have a history of dog bites or attacks for you to be held liable.
Free Legal Consultation – Boston Dog Bite Attorneys
If you have been injured by a dog or want to learn more about Massachusetts law concerning a dog owner’s responsibilities, visit our website. Each of our partners has more than 30 years of experience representing children and others injured by dog bites and dog attacks. We are here to advise you on your rights for seeking compensation for your child or yourself.
For a free legal consultation, contact our dog bite lawyers at 800-379-1244 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.