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What You Should Know About Dogs

Dogs can be man’s best friend — or his worst enemy. Americans love their pets. Unfortunately, not all of the 78.2 million dogs in the United States have been properly trained. To lessen your chances of getting bitten by a hostile dog, learn to recognize signs that a dog may be aggressive:

  • Posture – a dog’s posture says a lot about their mood.  When a dog becomes still and rigid or his ears are either pointing forward or back and close to the head, that is a warning sign.
  • Sound – a guttural, threatening bark is a sign of aggression, as well as growling and snarling.
  • Action – lunging without contact, snapping, “muzzle punching” and showing teeth are cues of an aggressive dog.
  • Biting – there is no debate that biting is aggressive behavior, whether it is a quick nip that doesn’t leave a mark, a bite with enough pressure to leave a bruise, or bites in rapid succession that may or may not puncture flesh.

Never underestimate the risk of being bitten by a dog. Each year, almost 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites, with children making up 50 percent of all dog bite victims. One fifth of dog bites require medical attention. In 2012, some 27,000 bites required reconstructive surgery.

While you are more likely to be bitten by a small dog, the larger breeds are responsible for the majority of dog bite fatalities. According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 2005 to 2013 the following breeds were involved in the most fatalities:

  • Pit bull terrier — 62 percent
  • Rottweiler — 11.7 percent
  • German Shepherd — 3.9 percent
  • Husky — 3.9 percent
  • Mastiff and bullmastiff — 3.5 percent

Mixed breed dogs, American bulldogs and boxers caused most of the remaining fatalities. Presa Canarios — fighting dogs weighing up to 110 pounds — were banned in Australia and New Zealand after two killed a 33-year-old woman in the hallway of a San Francisco apartment building. But U.S. law gives people the right to own these breeds of dogs. However, in most states, owners are held responsible for their dogs’ actions, with exceptions in certain specific circumstances. Bite victims could be held responsible for being bitten if they enter a dog owner’s property without invitation — especially if dog warning signs are posted — if they tease or provoke the dog or if they approach or touch a dog without its owner’s permission.

If a dog bite leaves you injured or disfigured in LancasterCounty, consult an attorney to learn about your legal options.

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