Dog bite victim guide ::

Recommendations from DogsBite.org are not intended as legal advice. We urge all dog bite victims to seek legal help after a dog bite. (If a dog has bitten your dog, click here.)

Steps after a dog bite

  1. Identify the dog
    The most important first step you can take after a dog bite is to identify the dog. Find out who owns the dog or where the animal lives. If the dog is a stray and you cannot identify it, you may be forced to undergo a series of rabies shots, which are expensive and painful.
  2. Seek medical care
    Depending upon the severity of the bite, contact first responders (9-1-1) for medical attention or have someone drive you to emergency care. Always seek medical care after a dog bite. The risk of infection from a dog bite is far too great to ignore.
  3. File bite report
    After you've been medically treated -- even if the injury was minor -- file a bite report with your city or county animal control or Sheriff's department. This legally documents your case and provides help to the next victim who may be harmed by the same dog. Without a paper trail, authorities cannot enforce effectively.
  4. Gather information
    To protect your future rights as a victim, obtain the name and address of the dog owner, in addition to the dog license information. Find out if the dog has a record as well. Has the dog bitten a person or dog prior to biting you? Has the dog been labeled "potentially dangerous" or "dangerous?"
  5. Photograph injuries
    Take photos of your injury, even if you need to unwrap gauze. Confer with a doctor or nurse as needed. They will tell you a safe manner in which to do so. It is recommended that you photograph all of your wounds, including bruises, as well as torn, bloody clothing and the location of the attack.
  6. Contact attorney
    Contact a dog bite attorney now -- not later. The issues surrounding dog bites are complex and difficult to navigate through. Your dog bite lawyer (or personal injury lawyer) is the only person besides the doctor that treats your wounds who will look after your best interest from this point forward.
  7. Begin journal
    Lastly, if you seek medical reimbursement for your injury, start a journal as soon as you can. Spend a little time each day recording your thoughts for the few first weeks after the attack. Dog bite claims can often take several years to complete. Anticipate keeping this journal on a biweekly basis over the course of this time.

Legal resources

Dog bite law is a combination of city, county and state law. To our knowledge, there is no single website that combines these resources. The below links, however, provide a good starting point to understanding dog bite victim rights and legal terminology.

  • Dog Bite Law: The most trusted dog bite law website on the Internet is DogBiteLaw.com by attorney Kenneth Phillips. His website provides a wealth of information for dog bite victims, dog owners and parents. It also provides information on state dog bite law for all 50 states.
  • For Dog Bite Victims: A section within DogBiteLaw.com written specifically for human victims of dog bites. Learn about your legal rights as a dog bite victim; the "one bite free" rule; landlord liability for dog bites; homeowner association liability for dog bites; humane society liability for dog bites and more.
  • Finding A Lawyer: The best way to find a dog bite lawyer in your immediate area is to search Google by typing, "your city, dog bite lawyer." Initial consultations are often free. Do not hesitate to contact more than one lawyer before making a final choice. You can also search our growing dog bite attorney directory.

If your dog has been bitten

If another dog has injured your dog, follow the same steps as described above with the addition of gathering witnesses. Animal bite laws are different than human bite laws and often do not work in favor of the victimized dog. But if you report the bite, you can help prevent a future dog or person from being victimized by the same dog. We recommend purchasing DogBiteLaw.com's e-book: What To Do If Your Dog Is Injured Or Killed

If a dog has threatened you

If you have been threatened or chased by a dog but not bitten, report the incident to animal control as well. This is commonly called a "menacing act." Once a dog has a paper trail of a few menacing acts, animal control can often label the dog as "potentially dangerous," which forces new restrictions on the dog. These new restrictions might require stronger containment rules, as well as stiffer annual registration fees for the owner.

Learn your local animal laws

In all instances of bites and menacing acts, you may want a copy of your local animal ordinance. Request a copy of this document by contacting your city or county clerk. You also may be able to receive it through the city or county animal control department. Like many dog bite victims and people whose pets have been victimized by dogs, your local laws might surprise you.