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Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law Michael J. Doyle, Attorney At Law
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What to Do After Being Bitten by a Dog

jack russel terrier on leash with teeth bared

It may be hard to imagine man’s best friend attacking someone, but dogs bite humans almost every day. Over 4.7 million people are estimated to be bitten annually in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and for a handful of these people, the results are fatal.

Dogs may bite if they feel scared or threatened, or if they are overstimulated during play. Dogs who have been neglected, abused, or trained to fight are especially at risk of violence. Here our Albuquerque dog bite lawyer Michael J. Doyle shares what to do if you have been bitten by a dog, or if your canine pet has attacked someone.

The Care and Reporting Process Following a Dog Attack

Washing the wound with soap and water is the first step to treating a dog bite. Dog’s mouths contain bacteria that can cause infections. Next, press a clean cloth against the wound to stop any bleeding and treat it regularly with antibacterial ointment.

If the bite is serious or if you don’t know the dog’s vaccination history, seek medical care immediately. Also go to a doctor if your wound gets worse as time passes or if you come down with a fever. Signs your wound is infected include redness, swelling, and tenderness.

Dog bites can leave an individual permanently scarred or disfigured—as well as traumatized. When in doubt, see a doctor to ensure your condition doesn’t get any worse.

Do I Have to Report a Dog Bite?

Very minor injuries don’t have to be reported, but if medical care was required to treat the wound it is recommended to report a dog bite. To report a dog bite in New Mexico, contact the police while at the scene of the accident. Later, report the bite to your local Animal Control. You may also contact your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance company for assistance depending on your policy.

If you have been bitten by a dog and would like to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of the attack.

Common Questions Following a Dog Attack

If your dog has attacked someone, especially if they are usually tame and peaceful, your mind is likely reeling with questions.

The inquiries we hear most often are:

  • If a dog bites someone will it be put down?
  • My dog bit someone for the first time, what should I do?

If a dog bites someone will it be put down?

Not usually. A dog is typically only put down if it is found to have rabies or is exceptionally violent—if it has bitten multiple people or been raised to fight, for instance. Unless the dog is rabid, a hearing will be held to determine if the pet is a threat to public safety. If so, the dog may be euthanized.

My dog bit someone for the first time, what should I do?

If your dog bites someone you should:

  • Stay calm
  • Confine your dog to a safe place
  • Help the injured victim clean their wound
  • Don’t admit fault, but do show kindness and empathy to the victim
  • Exchange information with the victim as well as with any witnesses
  • Contact the authorities to report the injury

While many states have a “one-bite rule” which lets a dog and their owner off relatively easy if the pet had previously never shown signs of aggression towards humans or bitten anyone, New Mexico does not. This means that even if this was your dog’s first violent offense, you can still be held liable for the attack.

However, cases in New Mexico look at the dog’s past behavior and demeanor as well as negligence on the part of the dog owner. You will have to prove you did not know of your dog’s aggressive behavior and took reasonable care to retain and curb your pet.

If you have other questions or would like to speak to an Albuquerque dog bite attorney about what to do following an attack, contact us now. Michael J. Doyle, Attorney at Law has been defending New Mexico accident victims for over 20 years.