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When A Dog Bites A Child

Although dogs are often considered to be man's best friend, that does not guarantee that our children are safe from harm when interacting with them. When any dog bites a child, it is always unexpected. The following guide provides resources to parents and dog owners on what they must do should it happen, and how to prevent it from happening at all.

What To Do When Your Child Gets Bitten By A Dog

It can be hard in the heat of the moment to think logically and rationally about what steps you need to take next. However, your child is counting on you always to act in their best interests. The following actions will help you do just that, both in the moment and in the aftermath.

  1. Identify the dog if you can. Find out where it lives and who its owner is. If you cannot identify the dog, it may be necessary to get a rabies shot for your child as soon as possible. If the dog is a stray, be certain you call Animal Control so that the stray can be caught.
  2. Seek medical care as soon as possible. Call an ambulance to take your child to the emergency room to evaluate his or her injuries and minimize the risk of infection.
  3. Report the incident to the police, so you receive a police report. it is also important to file a bite report with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
  4. Gather as much information as you can about the dog, its owner and any history of attacks. Contact the local health department to find out if a dog has had all its vaccinations.
  5. Take photographs of the bite site to document the injury.
  6. Contact an attorney promptly. Dog bite cases can be very complex, and it is essential to work with an advocate who has your and your child's best interests at heart.
  7. Since this is a traumatizing event, be mindful of how your child is coping with this directly after and long term. Counseling and therapy can be very beneficial if your child is having difficulties with what's transpired.

View these steps in .pdf form, or print them out for easy access in the event of a dog bite.

Dog Safety Tips for Parents & Children

It's important that as we instill a love of animals in our children while also teaching them how to interact safely with animals. A good rule of thumb is that what we wouldn't want to be done to us, a dog doesn't either. This is especially important because not all dog bites happen from strays or dogs on leashes. Some happen with dogs that are familiar to your family.

  • Teach your children to stand a safe distance away from a dog and their owner and ask the owner if they can come and pet the dog.
  • Always ask the dog owner before you pet a dog.
  • Always approach the dog calmly and so they can see you.
  • Never run up to a dog, especially from behind.
  • Let a dog lean forward and smell you first before you pet them.
  • Children should learn that pulling tails and ears is very painful for a dog.
  • Very few dogs like to be hugged, for most dogs it is a very uncomfortable experience.
  • Always listen to dog owners, no one knows a dog better than their owner.
  • Never leave a child alone unsupervised with dogs, and vice versa.

Preventing Dogs from Biting

Even the most well behaved, excellently trained dogs have bad days. Extenuating and stressful circumstances might make your dog prone to lashing out. When walking your dog, always be attentive to the environment and the impact it has on them.

  • Walking your dog near parks, schools and other places children spend time means children will see your dog and wish to play or pet it. Anxious, easily startled dogs shouldn't be walked near these areas.
  • Don't be afraid of seeming impolite by saying that someone cannot pet your dog. Your dog's body language will indicate when they are in a mood to be played with or left alone.
  • Show children how to pet and play with your dog. This will ensure that they interact appropriately with your dog.
  • Never leave your dog unattended or unsupervised with children.