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How can I protect myself if a dog attacks me?

Dogs are very popular pets in the United States. If you do not keep one yourself, it is likely you have a friend, neighbor or family member who does.

Unfortunately, all dogs can bite, even ones you are familiar with, and dog bites may be especially prevalent in California. According to State Farm, California had more dog bite claims in 2018 than any other state.

Dog bite wounds can be more severe than they initially look

Getting bitten by a dog can be a terrifying experience for anyone to go through and can lead to serious injuries. Even wounds that appear mild can involve damage to muscles, tendons, nerves or bones.

Dog bite wounds can also spread diseases and can easily become infected, even in people of good health. Those with weakened immune systems may be especially vulnerable to diseases and infections. However, in some situations, you may be able to prevent or minimize the injuries you receive.

Try to put something between you and the dog

There are several actions you can take to reduce your risk of being attacked by a dog, but if an attack is imminent, you may only have a moment or two to react. If you find yourself in this situation, avoid screaming, making direct eye contact with the dog or running away. Instead, look for any object to put between you and the dog.

A jacket, a purse or a bag could all work for this purpose, but you can use whatever is at hand. By putting something between you and the dog, you may allow the dog to attack the object instead of attacking you. This could give you the time you need to slowly back out of the area.

If the dog knocks you to the ground, try to curl into a ball and place your hands over your ears and neck. Your face, chest and neck are the areas you want to protect from any dog bite, if possible. If you are not knocked to the ground, you may consider keeping your hands in fists to protect your fingers.

Consider taking action after the attack

If a dog severely injures you or you cannot stop the bleeding, it may be appropriate to call 911 and request an ambulance. Even if your wounds do not appear to be serious, you may consider having them examined by a doctor to ensure they receive proper care. If possible, bring the animal’s vaccination history to your appointment to help rule out unnecessary treatments.

You may also consider reporting the attack to your local animal control or law enforcement agency, who will document the incident. This and other documentation could help you later if you must deal with an insurance claim or lawsuit.

If someone else’s dog injures you, it may be reasonable to seek compensation for medical bills, lost income and other costs associated with your experience. In California, dog owners are strictly liable for any injuries their pet causes.

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