What to do If You Are Bit by a Dog
Being bitten by a dog is always a scary event, whether it is the family pet, the neighbors dog or a strange dog running at large. Aside from the legal ramifications, the first thing to worry about is taking care of the wound itself. Care depends on the severity of the injury; if it is just a minor scrape, clean the wound with running water then apply hydrogen peroxide or isopropyl alcohol and a band aid.
If the wound is more serious, such as a puncture wound, don’t be afraid to let it bleed for a few minutes (unless the wound is bleeding profusely as in a neck or head wound, call 911). Bleeding will help to cleanse the wound, and after a few minutes, apply pressure directly to the wound to stop the bleeding, clean with running water and soap but do not apply any type of ointment to a puncture wound and, as a rule, don’t bandage it.
First aid at home, however, can only go so far, so if the bite is really deep you may need stitches or if you begin to see signs of infection or cannot stop the bleeding, you need to see a doctor. Dog bites can cause infections that need to be treated with antibiotics so watch for signs such as redness, warmth or swelling.
If you were bitten by your own dog, you know if their rabies vaccination is current, but if it’s the neighbors dog or you know the owner of the dog, ask to see their rabies certificate, note the name of the veterinarian and call to double check that the shots are current. Make sure you get the name and address of the dogs owner or the person that was responsible for the dog at the time it bit you. Take pictures of the wound before treatment and after. If applicable, see a doctor as that will provide you documentation in case you run into excessive medical expenses.
If the dog is a stray and you don’t know where it came from, you face the possibility of a painful rabies treatment. The American Red Cross cautions that if you are bitten by a stray, do not try to catch, stop or hold the animal. Contact animal control or whatever agency handles these matters in your jurisdiction and report and describe the stray. Even if the dog belongs to a friend, animal control needs to be notified so steps can be taken to prevent the dog from biting someone else.
When bitten by a dog it may be wise to contact an attorney. Along with the pain of a rabies treatment if needed, there are costs involved along with the doctor bills and any procedures needed. If you are in Kentucky, they are a strict liability state and the law favors anyone bitten by a dog. The dog owner is strictly liable for any damages incurred and there are harsh penalties along with strict laws on the confinement of the pet thereafter to keep other people safe from harm.