What should OH residents know about dog bites and liability?

Dog bites cause thousands of serious injuries each year. It is important for people to know how to minimize the chances of getting bitten.

Dogs are like family members to millions of families across the United States. Unfortunately, not all dogs are man's best friend. Each year, dozens of tragic incidents involving dog attacks make national news, and countless more bites and attacks are reported to authorities in Ohio and elsewhere.

The American Veterinary Medical Association states that over 4.5 million people suffer from dog bites every year, with about one-fifth needing the care of a doctor. Children and senior citizens are among those most likely to be bitten. Attacks are not necessarily restricted to dangerous pets with a reputation for being aggressive; many dogs that showed no previous signs of aggression have bitten family members. In fact, most dog attacks occur during ordinary activities with the family pet.

Dog bite laws in Ohio

Who is responsible if a dog attacks someone else? Ohio's Revised Codes state that owners are liable for injuries and damages inflicted on a neighbor, stranger, friend or other person who is bitten by a pet without provocation. However, the owner may not be held responsible if the person who was bitten was trespassing, threatening the owner or other family members, conducting an illegal activity such as breaking into a home, or teasing, harming or provoking the dog.

Pet safety tips

Are there ways to reduce the chances of being seriously injured by someone's dog? According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is important for people to learn the following safety points regarding dogs, as well as for parents to teach them to their children:

· Never approach a dog that is unfamiliar or seems to be acting aggressively, such as barking, growling or showing its teeth.

· Do not run away from a dog, which could trigger its predatory instinct.

· When approached by a strange dog, it is usually best to hold still and avoid looking in its eyes. If the dog loses interest, the person may begin to back slowly away.

· Do not bother a dog that is eating, caring for puppies, sleeping or chewing on a treat or toy.

· Do not encourage rough play and always supervise small children with dogs.

It is also a good idea to teach children to ask dog owners if they may pet the dog, and to allow the animal to see and sniff them first.

Understanding and teaching proper behavior around dogs is wise, but may not prevent all attacks. Those who were injured by an aggressive dog may be eligible for compensation, and might wish to contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Columbus for counsel.