The Truth Behind Preventing Dog Attacks
In the aftermath of a dog attack, we often discuss how to make sure it never happens again. Communities desperately want an answer to preventing dog attacks. But unfortunately, the reality can be a complicated process that allows for repeat offenses and never solves the underlying issues.
As a dog attack lawyer in Memphis, Tennessee, I’ve seen this pattern for years. Here’s some of what we’ve learned at our firm about what it might actually take to prevent these attacks in the future.
Basics for What to Do When a Dog Starts Attacking
One of the most common ways you’ll find online to prevent a dog attack is advice for the person being attacked in the moment. Of course, most of us don’t study those rules before a disaster happens. And even if we’ve read this advice before, in a moment of trauma, we may not remember the steps to take.
That said, it can still be useful to know the basics. A few things you should keep in mind if an aggressive dog approaches you:
- Ignore the dog and avoid eye contact.
- Turn your body slowly to the side and cross your arms.
- Be still for a moment and then slowly move away.
- Focus on getting somewhere like behind a fence or wall to put a barrier between you and the dog.
If the aggressive dog starts to attack, the best advice is to curl up into a ball as much as possible to protect your head and neck.
However, for anyone who has survived a dog attack or who has loved ones who experienced this, these pieces of advice can feel insensitive at best. Once a dog starts attacking, it can be nearly impossible to protect yourself, even if you know all the rules and even if you’ve been around dogs your whole life.
We have to start looking for better and more lasting solutions.
The Responsibility of Dog Owners
Any pet owner has a liability on their hands. As a result, they owe it to their community to give their pets proper training and socialization. When they don’t, it hurts the animals and the neighbors.
In most cases, if their negligence leads to a dog attack, the owner can be held responsible in civil court through a lawsuit. They are responsible for the personal injury that occurs as a result of their dog’s behavior.
And in some cases, like if they’ve ignored legal restrictions or behaved abusively toward the animal, they can even be held responsible in criminal court.
Getting Help from Law Enforcement
Law-enforcement has a critical and active role in helping to prevent dog attacks. Not only are they empowered to respond to community concerns about dangerous animals, but they’re authorized to remove animals from abusive and non-compliant homes.
Regardless of breed, dogs with a history of violence often learn their behavior through abuse. And in too many cases, neighbors and passersby have reported these animals long before an attack happens. But instead of getting help to defend their community, they get a voicemail or inaction.
For example, after a March 2023 pit bull attack in Memphis, neighbors said they’d told authorities and nothing changed. In fact, the owner had received 16 dog-related citations, including for letting his dangerous dogs roam freely in the neighborhood. One might ask whether law enforcement should have stepped in much faster after multiple repeat violations.
Preventing Dog Attacks by Holding People Accountable
With all of the above in mind, the courts are one of the only ways to hold people accountable. By seeking damages for personal injury, we can help bring justice to families and make owners aware that their behavior has financial consequences.
Preventing future dog attacks requires neighbors to look out for each other, owners to do the right thing, and law enforcement to be responsive. In many communities, we just don’t have that yet. We have breakdowns in some part of that collective agreement. And as a result, people aren’t safe.
Our attorneys can’t fix those problems by ourselves, but we can help people recover from their injuries and make it known that dangerous animals aren’t welcome in our communities. We can send a message to owners that not only is their behavior unacceptable; they will be punished to the fullest extent of civil law if their dog injures anyone (and criminal law if appropriate).
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, you need an attorney who will fight for you and all the people who want to live in a safe environment, free of threats.
We take these kinds of attacks personally, and we will treat you with the respect and care your case deserves. We’ll fight for you every step of the way, and we don’t win a penny unless and until you do.