Dog bite victim guide ::

Learn the immediate and long-term steps to take after being bitten or attacked by a dog. Our recommendations are not intended as legal advice. (If a dog has bitten your dog, click here.)

Steps to take after a dog bite

  1. Identify the dog and its owner
    Immediately identify the dog and its owner or the people who had custody of the dog when it attacked you. Obtain these names and addresses along with witness information. If the dog's owner cannot be identified, you may be forced to undergo a series of rabies shots, which are painful and expensive.
  2. Seek medical care
    Depending upon the severity of the dog bite, contact first responders (9-1-1) for immediate medical attention or have someone drive you to emergency care. Always seek professional medical treatment after being bitten or attacked by a dog. The risk of infection from a dog bite is far too great to ignore.
  3. File a dog bite report
    After you've been medically treated -- even if the injury was minor -- file a dog bite report with the proper city or county authorities. This legally documents your case and provides help to the next victim who may be bitten or attacked by the same dog. Without a paper trail, authorities cannot enforce effectively.
  4. Gather more information
    After identifying the dog and its owner, find out more about the dog. Obtain the dog license information and any records pertaining to its previous history. Has the dog bitten or attacked a person or animal prior to biting you? Has the dog been legally designated "potentially dangerous" or "dangerous?"
  5. Photograph your injuries
    Take photos of your injuries, 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 also recommended that you photograph all of your wounds, including bruises, as well as all torn, bloody clothing and the location of the attack.
  6. Contact an attorney
    Contact a dog bite attorney right away. The legal issues surrounding dog bites are always complex and difficult to navigate through. Your dog bite lawyer (or personal injury lawyer) is the only person besides the medical doctor who treats your injuries that will look after your best interest from this point forward.
  7. Begin a journal
    If you seek medical compensation 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 often take several years to complete. Anticipate keeping this journal on a weekly basis over the course of this time.

Legal resources

Dog bite law is a combination of city, county and state laws. 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 victims' rights and legal terminology.

  • Dog Bite Law: The most trusted dog bite law website on the Internet is by attorney Kenneth Phillips. His website provides a wealth of information for dog bite victims, attorneys, dog owners, landlords and parents. The website also provides detailed information on state dog bite laws for all 50 states.
  • For Dog Bite Victims: This is a section within written for people who have been bitten or attacked by a dog. Learn about your legal rights as a dog bite victim; the "one bite rule" in some states; 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 area is to search Google by typing, "your city, dog bite lawyer." You can also search our dog bite attorney directory. Initial consultations are free (learn about contingency fees). Do not hesitate to contact more than one attorney before making a final decision.

If your dog has been bitten

If another dog has bitten or attacked your dog, follow the same steps as described above with the added emphasis of gathering witness information. Animal bite laws are different than human bite laws and often do not work in favor of the injured dog. But if you report the dog bite, you can help prevent a future dog or person from being victimized by the same dog. We recommend reviewing this e-book, What To Do If Your Dog Is Injured Or Killed, by attorney Kenneth Phillips.

If a dog has threatened you

If you have been threatened or chased by a dog, but not bitten or attacked, report the incident to animal control as well. This is commonly called a "menacing act." Once a dog has a paper trail of multiple menacing acts, animal control might be able to designate the dog as "potentially dangerous," which forces new restrictions on the dog and its owner. These restrictions might include stronger containment requirements, sterilization, increased registration fees and more.

Learn your local animal laws

In all instances of menacing acts, bites and attacks by dogs, you should request a copy of your local animal control ordinance. Request a copy of your ordinance by contacting your city or county clerk. You can also request a copy through your city or county animal control department, police department or sheriff's department. Like many dog attack victims and people whose pets have been seriously or fatally injured by dogs, your local animal control laws might surprise you.