It’s something that just about every dog owner has worried about at some time or another. If a dog bites someone, will it be put down? What if the bite was in ‘self-defense’, perhaps because someone was poking the dog with a stick or breaks into your house? The answer actually varies bit based on a few different factors. In this article we will discuss this question in depth and also provide you with some tips for avoiding the issue altogether. Let’s start with a very important factor: Location.
Laws can vary considerably from place to place
While there are some ‘generally accepted’ rules in regards to dog biting the most influential factor is going to be where you live. In the United States, for instance, depending on which state you live in there could be a lot of differences in how an aggressive dog is ‘labeled’ and what happens if someone gets hurt. Let’s start by giving you an example of what happens if your dog bites someone in California.
California dog laws and other examples
California is noted for progressive, sometimes very ‘fluid’ regulations when it comes to all kinds fo things. For instance, in some parts of California if you are smoking in your house and the window is open and the neighbor smells it, you could get fined! So, how do California’s laws weigh in on dog biting? Well, in California there are 3 circumstances where a dog will be put down if it bites someone. Those circumstances are as follows:
- If the dog is carrying rabies.
- If the dog has been trained as an attack dog and has seriously hurt a person in an attack.
- If the dog has bitten at least 2 people.
Laws really vary from state to state considerably. For instance, in Pennsylvania, having a ‘vicious’ dog and someone getting bitten doesn’t necessarily mean that anything happens, as in this state they gauge whether or not the owner was negligent in how they handled their dog in such cases. Many states also have a ‘one bite’ policy, meaning in general that after one bite euthanasia may be pursued or alternately your dog might be classified as ‘dangerous’ and subject to stricter rules than the average dog.
What does it mean if your dog is deemed ‘dangerous’?
If your dog becomes classified as ‘dangerous’ then there are a number of different things which may occur. Some locations, for instance, may require you to put up signs warning others about your dangerous pet. That doesn’t seem so bad, as many of us do this anyway to deter burglars. It’s one of the perks of having a furry best friend. Other towns or cities, however, may be a lot stricter. Sometimes you will be required to muzzle your dog whenever you take it out in public. Some locations may even require
“Retain the services of a good attorney”
you to move the dog out of their jurisdiction if it has been declared dangerous. In some of the most severe cases then your dog may be placed on what is called a ‘bite hold’ and in this case, the dog is seized and evaluated by animal control. Should this occur then you will want to retain the services of a good attorney because euthanasia is a real possibility in such a case and may not be avoidable without some solid legal counsel.
Socializing your aggressive dog is the key to avoiding the issue
If your dog is aggressive (even if it is limited to specific circumstances) then it is in your best interest to make sure that the dog is properly socialized. Dogs can be aggressive for a number of reasons, such as being weaned way too early (causing co-dependence on their owner and distrust of other humans or dogs) or in the case of the adoption of abused animals. Whatever the underlying causes, all dogs can benefit from good socialization and if your dog is aggressive then you need to address the issue so that you can minimize the chances of local law enforcement getting involved. Some excellent ways to help socialize your dog are as follows:
- Muzzles aren’t mean – If your dog is aggressive, muzzling may be a good idea whenever friends or other dogs are nearby. It’s safer and you can always remove the muzzle once the dog has become used to other dogs or people.
- Slow introductions – This is a slow process. During your dog’s first 3 – 12 weeks of life they learn to socialize with people and other dogs, namely through play with the rest of their litter and the family around them. If the dog was taken too early, for instance, they don’t know how hard to bite. Normal play with their brothers, sisters, and mom teach a pup what is acceptable and what is not, so if your dog was weaned early be sure to always introduce them to other dogs or people very slowly. Keep them leashed if out in public and let your dog sniff another dog cautiously but be ready to react if your dog leaps. Over time your dog will get used to other people, you just need to be patient. This is doubly true for adopted animals that may have been abused. It is all about making your dog feel safe and you’ll build that trust over time.
- Daily walks are a good idea – Daily walks get your dog used to constant stimuli. Don’t worry, over time they will relax, just keep a clockwork schedule.
- Make friends with your neighbors – If a neighbor has a dog then this is great for socializing. Introduce them slowly and then try to schedule regular playtimes. You’ll be surprised because this simple tip works wonders.
We hope that this article has helped to shed a little light on the issue. In summary, be sure to learn your local laws, socialize properly, and work on those doggie trust issues. Be patient and you’ll seem to have a whole new dog before you know it!