Steps to Take After A Dog Attack

What Should I Do After A Dog Attack?

A dog biting a child's hand.

The steps you should take after a dog attack are:

  • seek medical attention immediately,
  • follow your doctor’s wound-cleaning orders,
  • report the incident to your local animal control,
  • identify witnesses,
  • document the bite wound,
  • speak to a personal injury attorney.

1. Seek Medical Attention Immediately.

Dog bite wounds can be very serious. But even seemingly small wounds can result in serious infections and/or permanent scarring.  Big or small, you should seek medical care from a trained professional to ensure that the wound is properly cleaned and, if necessary, sewn up.  Dog bite wounds can not only allow infection from the bacteria in the bite, but they can also allow dangerous staphylococcus bacteria (MRSA) to enter the wound and cause a “staph” infection. These can be dangerous, even deadly if not properly treated.  Furthermore, dogs can carry and spread rabies. Additionally, severe scarring and even keloid scarring can occur around a dog bite wound. Keloidal scars occur as a result of an overgrowth of granulation tissue (collagen type 3) at the site of a healed skin injury which is then slowly replaced by collagen type 1.  Early treatment and care can help prevent and/or reduce the effects of scarring. Be sure to tell the doctor about your attack so he can treat it properly.

2. Follow Your Doctors Wound-Cleaning Orders.

Because infections are common with dog bite wounds, you should be very careful to regularly change the bandaging around the wound and to perform proper wound care regularly.  Furthermore, you need to take the antibiotics as prescribed to prevent infection. Be sure to follow up as ordered for cleaning, wound care, and monitoring of the healing process.

3. Report the Incident to Your Local Animal Control.

Many cities and counties require that any person having knowledge of an attack by a dog must report it to the proper authorities. In most cases, the local city or county animal control is the correct department to report the incident to.  This is very important to do. You need to locate your animal control department phone number and report it. Animal control will then conduct an investigation to be sure the animal is up to date on its rabies vaccinations, properly secured and identified. They will create a report which identifies the proper owner of the dog. This report will ultimately help you identify the proper responsible party as well as document the dog attack. If they do not provide you with a copy of the report, you can submit a request directly using the following sample open records request that is designed to obtain prior incident reports for the same dog as we as the current incident.

If animal control fails to act, you may wish to press to have the dog declared dangerous on your own. For further reading on this, please see: How to Declare a Dog Dangerous In Houston. If you are outside Houston, your local animal control should have similar procedures.

4. Identify Witnesses.

If there were any eyewitnesses (other than the dog owner), write down their names, addresses, and phone numbers and put this somewhere safe. If anyone tells you this dog has bitten before, those people are extremely important witnesses and you must prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous propensities. Obtain their information as well.

5. Document the Bite Wound.

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Nothing helps prove the extent of what you endured like photographs documenting the injuries from the beginning through the entire healing process. Take photos early and often with a cell phone or whatever you may have available.

6.  Speak To a Personal Injury Attorney Who Handles Dog Bite Cases.

Not all lawyers handle dog attacks.  The law can be very tricky as your dog attack attorney must wade through City, County, and State Codes and Laws to determine exactly what dog bite laws apply in Texas.  Before you speak to the dog owner or their insurance representatives, you should seek legal advice from an attorney who understands the “One Free Bite Rule” and the issues surrounding it.  Your lawyer may need to take statements and research prior bite reports to establish your case.

Simmons and Fletcher, P.C., Injury & Accident Lawyers handle dog bite cases across the United States. Our initial consultation is always free and we handle cases on a contingency fee basis. You do not pay us a dime unless we make a recovery for you. If you or a loved one has been attacked by a dog, give us a call today.

Other Reading:  What to do if your child is bitten by a dog.