When a dog bites a child it can be particularly devastating. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a child to be attacked or bitten by a dog. With their smaller size, children are at higher risk. Children are more likely to want to take toys when playing with dogs or to pull an ear or tail.
Younger children and dogs around children may not have yet learned how to behave appropriately around each other. Behavior around animals is not instinctive and must be taught to dogs and children.
Dog bites to children are often by dogs they are familiar with – a household pet, neighbor, or friend’s dog. This study found that 72% of children in the United States knew the dog that bit them. They are also the group found to be the most frequent to visit hospital emergency departments from dog bite injuries.
Parents need to know that familiarity does not mean a dog won’t attack so to closely supervise children and the family dog. Also, remember that any breed and any size of dog can bite and cause injury. Prevention can be the best method to keep children safe:
When a dog attacks or bites a child, immediately separate the child and the dog. Once the situation is under control, take the same steps taken after an adult is attacked or bitten by a dog:
After a dog bites a child, the child can experience emotional distress or even post-traumatic stress disorder. Dog bites can be traumatic for anyone, but especially a child. It is important to help the child process the emotional trauma after a dog bites a child. Dog bites can lead to anxiety, fear, or acting out as they try to deal with what happened.
It is important to talk to your child about the incident and to also listen to what they have to say. These FAQ’s may help. Talk for the first few days twice a day and then once a day for a few weeks following the incident. Remind the child it is not their fault.
The best course of action may be to seek professional counseling for your child. Studies have shown that therapy should begin as soon as possible for a child after a traumatic incident.
Be mindful of your emotions around your child as well. Speak calmly of the incident. Take a child’s thoughts and opinions into account where you can for suggested surgeries and medical treatments, what happens to the dog if it is a beloved family pet, and when to reintroduce a child to animals.
Be patient when reintroducing your child to dogs again and allow them to set the pace. Don’t force them to interact or pet the dog before they are ready to.
The decision to euthanize an animal will depend on many factors. The dog’s owner may make that decision. In New Jersey, a court can order a dog owner to put a dog down if the circumstances of the dog attack were particularly vicious
If you or your child has been injured by a dog, David J. Cowhey is ready to help you navigate the legal system. Speak to him about your dog bite case to get your child the compensation they deserve following this stressful incident. He’s available 24/7 and offers a free case evaluation. Contact him online or call 609-513-0627.