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Dog Bites – A Crime?

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A dog owner, who shirks responsibility when his or her pet bites someone, could end up in some hot water, according to a bill that passed in the Michigan State House on Thursday.

An Associated Press news report states that this bill proposes criminal penalties for dog owners who leave the scene of a biting incident without providing vaccination information and assistance to the bite victim.

A violation will be considered a misdemeanor punishable by up to 93 days in jail and a $500 fine. The Bill is sponsored by Rep. Jee Mayes, a Democrat from Bay City, Mich.
The bill passed the House by a 98-5 vote. It now goes to the Senate.

Normally, bite victims can file civil lawsuits against dog owners. We should know. Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys has dealt with numerous dog bite injury cases, many of them horrific incidents involving small children, who have required plastic surgery.

But I agree that criminal prosecution should be an option as well. Dogs bite more than 4.7 million people a year in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of dog bites requiring medical attention has increased 15 times faster than the increase in dog ownership. In addition, there are 850,000 dog bites requiring medical attention in the U.S. annually and letter carriers suffer about 3,000 bites annually as they attempt to do their jobs.

These are alarming numbers and this is a problem that is getting worse, not better. Victims of dog bite attacks undergo a lot of pain and life-altering injuries, including deep skin wounds, loss of fingers, infections and scarring.

Dogs that are prone to attack, especially pit-bull terriers and rottweilers, must be held responsible for them. Making negligent owners responsible for their actions and making their negligence a crime, which it is, is a right step in that direction.

Meanwhile, here are some good tips from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

– Restrain the dog immediately. Separate it from the scene of the attack. Confine it.

– Check on the victim’s condition. Wash wounds with soap and water. Professional medical advice should be sought to evaluate the risk of rabies or other infections. Call 911 if paramedic response is required.

– Provide important information: your name and address, and information about your dog’s most recent rabies vaccination. If your dog does not have a current rabies vaccination, it may be necessary to quarantine it or even euthanize it for rabies testing. The person bitten may need to undergo rabies treatment.

– Report the bite to your insurance company.

– Comply with local ordinances regarding the reporting of dog bites.

– Consult your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar problems in the future.

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