Supervising “Tink” During National Dog Bite Prevention Week

A large insurance company had released that Missouri came in ranking at #14 for dog bite claims. What is just as interesting is that Illinois came in Number 2. Ranking high in this category is not a good thing. They stated that Illinois came in with 337 claims total of $9 million. The number of claims and the amount may seem high to the general reader, but from experience, we see that the actual number of people may be higher than that–they just don’t always file a claim. Often, the reason someone would not file a claim is that they were not aware that they could file a claim to get help with compensation for injuries and paying such things as medical bills.

Prevention through education and awareness is usually the best way to impact the number of dog bite incidents that occur in any state. Think about the people that deliver to your home–the postal carrier, the FedEx driver, and the UPS driver–I read that they have started carrying dog treats with them–not sure if that actually reduces the number of dog bites, but I’m sure it gives them a second or two to help Rover hesitate. According to, St. Louis is the 7th out of the top ten list of cities for postal carriers to be bitten. Nationwide, 5,879 postal employees were attacked. The other most common attack victim is a child due to their height and lack of experience or education about behavior around dogs.

As a dog lover and owner, I am still very cautious about my dog, Tinkerbell. “Tink” is a 100 pound Labrador retriever and it is hard to imagine that he would ever bite my children as he is such a gentle giant and has “endured” all of the torturing love bestowed upon him by my two and five-year-old over the years. But, in the back of my mind, I remember that he is a dog and his natural instinct is to bite if he feels threatened or is hurt. When other children come to my house, I am cautious and as any responsible dog owner, I never allow small children or other children to be alone with Tink. Dogs are naturally protective and they identify with their “people” or pack. For Tink, his people or pack members are my kids, therefore, if someone or something were to appear to threaten them, he is a dog and there is always a possibility that he might bite someone or something. We socialize him quite a bit, but his natural instincts are to defend. He is full of love, but we can never be too cautious. As well, it is really important to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date for their health and others.

Children are by far the largest of the population most bitten by dogs because children are often too trusting and are unaware of appropriate behavior around dogs. Children are easily bitten in the face due to their size and lack of understanding about dogs.

The American Veterinary Medical Association provides some good tips to inform adults and children about preventing dog bites by using the acronym WAIT.

  1. WAIT to see if the dog is with its owner before approaching. STOP if the dog looks unfriendly or afraid and SLOWLY walk away.
  2. ASK the owner for permission Before you attempt to pet their dog. STOP if the owner says no and then walk away SLOWLY.
  3. INVITE the dog to sniff you by using a quiet voice and keep your hand curled and resting on your thigh. If the dog does not come over and sniff you, then STOP and walk away slowly, and DO NOT attempt to touch the dog.
  4. TOUCH the dog gently when you pet the dog and do not pet near its face, head, or tail. Be sure to pet the dog on its back and in the direction of its fur. If they do not seem to like it or tense up…STOP and walk away slowly.

You will notice a theme here while interacting with dogs………slow, calm, and cautious. Dogs do not generally bite because they are mean; they generally bite when they are afraid. Generally, they bite when they feel afraid, threatened, or overwhelmed in a situation. Dog owners can do many things to address their dog’s fears and behaviors by socializing their dogs and graduated training.

Aiko, “socializing” with her dog, Daisy published an article recently about W.A.I.T that I find very helpful. It is important to remember that a dog’s instinct is to bite when cornered or hurt. They quoted Shakespeare, “Since I am a dog, beware my fangs”.

Missouri used to have a “one bite rule”, meaning that if your dog bites someone then you were not liable the first time, however, that has recently changed. As an owner, you are liable if your dog bites someone. Typically, if your dog bites someone at your home or on your property, then the victim may make a claim on your home owner’s policy.

As an owner, you have a duty to train and socialize your dog so that they will not bite or you need to be sure that you muzzle the animal in public areas. Be certain that your dog is on a leash in public areas and that they are secured on your property through fencing or keep them in the house. Generally “chaining” them in the yard can be cruel and can create defensive behaviors.

As the weather warms and more of us are outside and about, so are dogs. Not only are dog owners responsible for their dogs, but as individuals, we must be cautious, responsible, and considerate when interacting with dogs. Dogs are much like each of us in that we don’t want strangers running up and touching us or getting in our space—you wouldn’t run up and pick up or pet someone’s child, so don’t run up and try to pick up or pet their dog without permission.

If you have been bitten by a dog and the conditions were such that you did not provoke the animal and you sustained serious injuries, then you may need legal representation. In some instances, a dog bite can be deforming such as a bite to a child’s face. Call our attorneys at The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 if you need information about a possible dog bite claim. Talk to one of our St Louis personal injury lawyers today.

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The Cagle Law Firm serves accident and injury clients throughout St. Louis and the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, including the eastern Missouri and southern Illinois communities. If you or a loved one needs legal assistance with your personal injury case, call The Cagle Law Firm at (314) 276-1681 or use our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.

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