Dog Bite Liability & Halloween

Every year my family participates in Halloween from our Modesto home. We also have a dog in our family so I wanted to post a blog entry about Halloween and dog safety. Halloween can be fun for kids and parents alike. Dressing up like ghosts, pirates, zombies as well as princesses or cowboys can be exciting.Halloween can make some dogs nervous and anxious. When dogs normally protect the home from intruders, the dog owner would applaud them. A family dog confronted by a masked child is a receipt for disaster. A well meaning dog trying to protect the owner by biting that masked stranger can be costly to the dog owner, especially when that masked stranger is an 8 year old child.

Dog Statistics

According to a 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey 62% of U.S. households own a pet. Of those homes with pets, there are 46.3 million homes in the United States with a least one dog. The Centers for Disease Control reports that more than 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. The CDC also reveals that of those 4.7 million people, 800,000 of them seek medical treatment for those bites and half of those seeking treatment are children. There are more than 386,000 people that require medical treatment in an emergency room from dog bite injuries. Sadly, 16 people die each year from dog bites in the United States. Children are the most at risk for injury, specifically those children between the ages of 5 to 9. About 2/3 of the injuries to children ages 4 and younger are to the head and neck region.

Insurance Payouts

According to a press release by State Farm Insurance, one of the nation’s largest home insurers, they paid more than $109 million on about 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide in 2011. The Insurance Information Institute (III) estimates that nearly $479 million in dog bite claims were paid by all insurance companies in 2011. In California alone there were 527 State Farm dog bite claims and 20.3 million dollars in payouts.

California Strict Liability Law

Under the scenario where the child is bitten by a dog while trick or treating, the dog owner is liable for any injuries caused by the dog. Under California Civil Code § 3342 a dog owner is strictly liable for injuries caused by their dog. That means that even when the dog is normally gentle and calm, when that calm easy going dog bites someone, the owner is on the hook for the damages caused by their dog. There are few exeptions and limited defenses. But at the end of the day, the dog owner would be liable if their dog bit a trick or treater, and that is the point of this blog post.

Halloween Tips For Dog Owners

  • Keep dogs indoors and away from the front door where trick or treaters knock
  • If you want to have your dog near the door to greet visitors, keep them on leash
  • Keep a firm grip on the leash; many dogs are frightened by people in costumes
  • Many dogs will run after trick-or-treaters so be sure to put up a gate to prevent escape
  • Place your dog in a quiet room especially if you dog is aggressive or is anxious
  • If the animal is very high-strung, consult your vet about tranquilizing for the night
  • Give the dog a new chew toy to keep them occupied
  • Play music or leave a TV or radio playing in the dog’s room to help mask Halloween sounds
  • Close drapes so that the dog does not see people coming and going through the window
  • Try to watch and anticipate trick or treaters so they don’t ring your door bell or knock on the door

Tips For Trick or Treaters

In addition from taking precautions at home to prevent your dog from biting trick or treaters, it is equally important that you take precautions to prevent dogs from biting your own children. The main thing to remember is that Halloween can make dogs unpredictable so children should be aware of that fact. Here are some additional tips:

  • Teach children never to run from a dog who approaches them, especially when they have a Halloween costume on
  • Carry both a flashlight and pepper spray while out with children trick or treating
  • Never let children trick or treat without a responsible adult
  • Teach children never to walk into someone’s home on Halloween no matter how inviting

Following the tips listed in the article are helpful hints that can keep your dog and your children safe. If you or someone you know is bitten by a dog, whether on Halloween or not, the bite victim should immediately seek medical attention. After seeking medical treatment the bite victim or their family should contact Modesto dog bite attorney Tai C. Bogan at The Bogan Law Firm, A Professional Corporation for aggressive representation.

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