We love our pets! They provide us with security, comfort, and companionship; however, dogs aren’t for all people, and an aggressive or poorly trained pet could cost you—an average dog bite claim in 2020 cost about $50,000.
Dog bites can result in physical injury, death, and emotional trauma. And dog bites are just part of the risk! Injuries that occur if someone trips over your dog, falls while running from your dog, or from an auto accident caused by your dog running into the street could also trigger a lawsuit.
Because dogs are an attractive nuisance, they are hard to resist—especially to children. Data collected by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) between 2003 and 2012, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4 and 9th for ages 5-9, and 10th for 10–14-year old’s. In 2018, dog bites ranked as the 13th leading cause of nonfatal injury. Most of these attacks that were reported were to the head and neck and from a known dog (either owned by the family or living in the neighborhood—not a stray dog).
There are ways to minimize the likelihood of an occurrence. When choosing a dog as a pet, research the temperament of the different breeds and find one that is suitable for your lifestyle. Higher energy dogs are prone to nip if they are not exercised regularly.
When they are puppies, they are like human babies, and they explore their world with their mouths. Puppies tend to in nibble and bite. The best thing to do when they are puppies and biting is to stop what you are doing and leave them alone. This will help train them to realize biting and nipping is an unacceptable behavior. Wrestling with a puppy and allowing them to chew on you will encourage them to do it as adults when these “playful” bites can become more effective and damaging.
Let your dog meet other dogs and people to socialize them; help from a dog trainer can provide insight into best socialization methods to avoid a frightened or nervous dog from biting while training them to be socialized.
If a dog is sleeping, it is best to leave them alone or call to them to wake them. If you touch a sleeping dog, it may shock them, and they may react aggressively. Be sure to teach children to not wake a sleeping dog.
If your dog nips or bites, do not be aggressive with them to punish them. Try to understand why the dog is biting and remedy the behavior causing the problem. For example, sometimes as a dog ages, they start to have aches and pains causing them to be defensive when touched. Understanding why the dog is starting to be aggressive can help you find ways to avoid serious injury from a dog bite.
If children are in the presence of a dog, always supervise the situation. Do not leave the child and dog alone even if they have done well together in the past. Children do not always fully understand the nature of dogs and may hit them, pull on their tail or ears, grab the dog’s face, or act in another manner that provokes the dog into biting. Children can be relentless, and a dog might feel that biting is its only option to get out of the situation.
The American Pet Products Association’s 2021-2022 Pet Owners Survey estimates 69 million households in the U.S. with a dog and the American Veterinary Medical Associate estimates around 90 million dogs in American homes. Dog ownership has been on the rise in recent years and while dog bite claims dropped 4.6% between 2019 and 2020, the average cost of liability claims for homeowners have increased 12.3%—from an average of $44,760 per claim in 2019 to $50,425 in 2020.
Florida is second to California in the number of claims filed in the U.S. for dog bites and dog-related injuries. There were 1,235 claims in 2020 with an average cost per Florida claim at $55,111 and the value of the claim listed at $68.1 million.
Florida is a “strict liability” dog bite state. This means dog owners can be held liable criminally and civilly for any injury sustained by their dog towards an individual who is legally in a public or private environment—even if the dog owner was unaware of any prior aggressive behavior in their dog. Also, a victim can file a claim without having to prove the homeowner as a negligent pet owner, so long as they can prove the dog bit them.
If you have a dog, be sure to review your policy to be sure animal liability is included in your home insurance coverage. There are other policies that specifically cover animal liability or increase coverage limits that can be purchased separately.