Many people feel the safest and most secure in the comfort of their own homes. While parents may worry about the safety of their children when they are walking to school or on the playground, they often feel that they have addressed the children risks that can be found in their home: fencing in a swimming pool or placing child safety locks throughout the house. However, if you have a dog in your house, regardless of the breed, your child may be at risk, explains a California injury attorney specializing in child injury law.
Approximately 400,000 children visit hospital emergency rooms for dog bite injuries annually. 16 of these children die from their injuries, making dog attacks one of the most common-and, at times, least expected-children risks. Just last week, a two-year-old San Diego boy was fatally attacked by his family’s German Shepherd while his mother was sleeping.
Unlike American Staffordshire terriers (a.k.a. pit bulls) and Rottweilers, German Shepherds do not have a history of aggressive behavior. The police and military often employ German Shepherds because they are intelligent, obedient, and loyal. According to the American Kennel Club, they are one of the most frequently registered dogs in the country-an indication of their popularity. The AKC describes the breed as, “the ideal choice for families,” and notes that the dogs are great with children with whom they are familiar. The tragedy that recently occurred in San Diego suggests that the breed of dog you have does not determine whether or not it may attack.
The way in which you socialize a dog is also a factor in whether or not it will behave aggressively. Wrestling with the dog or playing tug-of-war will condition the dog to be aggressive. Training the dog to obey commands will encourage submissive behavior, especially if the dog must let down its guard or allow you to cross natural boundaries.
No matter how obedient or well trained the dog may be, it should never be left alone with small children. Toddlers and young children tend to be less observant, so they may not be as discerning when interacting with a dog. In an attempt to play, they may disturb the dog when it is eating or sleeping; in turn, they may not perceive indications that their behavior is bothering the dog. While children are more likely to unknowingly provoke a dog, their size makes them ill equipped to defend themselves if the dog attacks. Children who are 4 years old or younger are most likely to receive injuries to the head and neck during a dog attack-an indication that they are unable to defend two of the most vulnerable and vital areas of body.
Stray or unfamiliar dogs pose one of the greatest children risks outside of the home, explains a California injury attorney. If your child encounters an aggressive dog, he or she should avoid eye contact or making any quick movements. Screaming or running could provoke the dog. During an attack, if pulled to the ground, roll into a ball and stay as still as possible. Go to the emergency room immediately. You may also want to speak with a reputable dog bite lawyer, as the owner of the dog may be obligated to compensate you for the costly medical attention your injuries require.
James Ballidis is a California injury attorney who has written extensively on the subject of dog attacks, as well as other topics related to personal injury law. For legal advice or to request a copy of one of his books, feel free to call 866-981-5596.