While the dog next door hasn’t attacked you or your loved ones, you sincerely fear that it will.
A dangerous dog doesn’t have to attack someone to be a safety concern. As a parent, neighbor, or just concerned individual, you should know your rights when it comes to suspecting that a dog in your area is a safety threat and what to do if that dog does attack.
Just realize, your fears might be justified. After all, what sounds like a simple scratch or nip from a dog can cause severe physical and emotional trauma. Therefore, you should do what is necessary to protect yourself and your loved ones when you think that the dog next door is an attack waiting to happen.
Aggressive Dogs Next Door – What You Should Do
A dog barking is not always an indication the dog will become vicious and attack. Dogs do bark, and they will bark at anyone passing by their property or nearing their property – it is just how they notify you that you are coming onto their territory.
However, if that same dog growls, shows teeth, or attempts to break through the gate/fence trying to get at you or your children, then it is no longer an issue of protecting or warning; that dog may be overly aggressive, and the risk for an attack increases.
Also, more owners are buying exotic dog breeds and keeping them on their property. For example, breeding a husky with a wolf and then calling it a “mixed breed.” These exotic varieties of dogs, especially breeds that include lines not meant for domestic keeping, can put everyone in your neighborhood at risk. Therefore, if you suspect that your neighbor has an exotic animal or a breed of dog that is prohibited in your area, you can call the local hotline for animal control and have them investigate.
Animal control may take in the dog if it is an unauthorized breed, and the owner will receive a fine to get rid of the animal.
Likewise, if you think that the dog is rabid or a safety threat, you can report it to animal control. While animal control is slow to respond to suspicions of an unsafe dog, they will follow up and check in on the animal to make sure it is not rabid and that there are no other safety concerns.
Unfortunately, from there, you do not have much you can do other than to inform family, visitors, and friends about your concern so they can act appropriately. You can tell your children and loved ones to not approach the dog, and you will want to make sure that your family knows what to do if attacked by a dog. This included curling up into a ball to protect vital organs and never running from a dog that is ready to attack.
The Owner’s Responsibilities
In Pennsylvania, all animal owners are responsible for injuries caused by their dog – regardless of whether or not the dog has a history of violent or aggressive behavior. Therefore, if your neighbor’s dog does harm you or a loved one, you can hold them financially liable for any injuries you sustain.
Even if the owner tries to restrain the animal, if the dog were to get out and cause injuries, they are liable for those injuries. Also, if you had previously mentioned to your neighbor your concerns about the dog and your safety, you may be able to use that information against them when you file a claim for compensation. The owner may be unable to claim they did not know their dog was a threat, especially if you have records that you contacted animal control and warned your neighbor about your concerns over their dog’s aggressive nature.
What Damages Can You Recover?
Dog attacks are vicious, and they often lead to long-term physical and emotional injuries.
Not only can there be damage to tissue, vital organs, and limbs, but most individuals who suffer a violent dog attack will suffer from anxiety, depression, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Likewise, animal attacks can lead to infection, rabies exposure, and other bacteria that cause further complications.
If the animal’s owner did nothing to restrain the dog or knew that their dog was a threat and let the dog outside without restraint, you may be able to recover punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages.
Punitive damages are designed to punish the dog’s owner, and they serve as a notice to the public of what happens when other owners do not responsibly act when their animal poses a threat.
Typically, dog attack cases include damages for:
- Medical Costs – Medical expenses include the initial treatment, such as the emergency room, and any other medical care associated with the attack. This may include antibiotics, rabies treatments, plastic surgery, hospitalizations, physician’s office visits, and psychological therapy appointments. It also includes the cost of prescriptions and medical equipment necessary to recover from your injuries.
- Lost Wages – If you missed time at work to care for a child who was attacked by a dog or you were the victim and had to miss work while you recovered from the attack, you are entitled to compensation for those lost wages. Likewise, if you are unable to return to work, you can claim for loss of future earnings.
- Pain and Suffering – Animal attacks often leave physical scarring, are painful to recover from, and emotionally traumatic. You may need therapy, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, and more. The pain and suffering you experience are compensable under the law. And while no one can replace what happened, this compensation is designed to make you as financially whole as possible.
If you or a loved one suffered a vicious attack from a neighbor’s dog, do not let the insurance company tell you how much your case is worth. Instead, speak with an attorney right away about your options, and see how an attorney can help you get the compensation you deserve.