Most dogs are sweet and friendly, and the biggest threat they pose is thumping you with a wagging tail. However, dogs are still animals, and animals can react unpredictably. In fact, there are millions of incidents each year involving people who have been bitten by dogs, with some of them happening right here in St. Petersburg. If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite, here’s what to do in the immediate aftermath.
Seek medical attention
Depending on the severity of the bite, you may need to call 911. Even if you’re able to drive yourself to the hospital, you’ll want to seek medical attention immediately with either your primary doctor or at the emergency room. Dog bites carry a strong risk for serious infection, so it’s very important that the wound is properly cleaned right away. A doctor should also be able to tell you if a series of rabies shots are necessary.
Determine who owns the dog
Another important step – and this one can’t be stressed enough – is to identify the dog and determine who owns it. If the dog is a stray, you may be required to have the rabies shots. However, if the dog is someone’s pet, then they should be able to tell you if the dog is current on its rabies vaccinations. You’ll also be able to gather information, such as their name, address, and whether or not the dog has been licensed. Also, find out if the dog has ever bitten anyone before or has a history of being aggressive.
Taking photographs of your injuries is another top priority after a dog bite. Try to do this both before and after your wounds have been treated, and from a couple of different angles. If you have clothing that has been torn or bloodied in the attack, snap a picture of that as well. Finally, take some photos of the location where you were bitten. Photographic evidence is critical during the aftermath of a dog bite incident.
Report the incident
You’ll also want a legal document on record reporting the particulars of the incident. You can file a report with your local (city or county) animal control department, the police, or sheriff’s office. Having this paper trail in place will help you should the situation turn into a legal matter, and it will also enable the authorities to enforce punishment if necessary.
Contact a personal injury attorney
You may also want to contact a personal injury attorney, especially if the dog bite was severe enough to warrant a trip to the hospital. Don’t wait to do this either – the sooner you have an attorney on your side, the better. The laws regarding these incidents are complex, and an attorney specializing in dog bite law will be able to help you navigate this complicated situation.
Dog bites can happen to anyone, anywhere. Whether you’re visiting a place like Fort De Soto Park, which is an off-lease dog area near Saint Petersburg, or simply walking around your neighborhood, you may encounter a dog. And while most of these human/dog encounters will be uneventful, there is always a risk. If you are ever the unfortunate victim of a dog bite, follow the steps above to ensure that you are properly cared for physically, mentally, and legally.