What to do if you are bitten by a dog

Dog bites are commonplace incidents. They can happen for many reasons from play getting too rough to serious aggression. Here is a brief guide to what steps you should take if you receive a dog bite. Obviously, you will need to tailor them to the situation and put your personal safety first.

Locate the owner of the dog

Ideally, this should be your first step, especially if the dog is loose in a public place. As a minimum, you will want it to be put on a lead. You will also want the owner’s name and contact details and to check if they have insurance.

You can try asking for the owner’s address, but be aware that, in the real world, the owner may have entirely legitimate reasons for wanting to keep that private. After all, they don’t know who you are and at this point, they may not even know if your story is true.

If you cannot find the owner then try to get at least one clear picture of the dog. If possible take at least two, face and body. If you can’t then note its description. Try creating a voice note on your phone instead of relying on your memory.

Locate any witnesses and get their details

It’s preferable if there are third-party witnesses. If so, ask them for their details. Similar comments apply here as for the owner of the dog. You might have to make do with a name and an email or social media handle. If this is the case, be gracious, you are not police and they do not have to give you any of their details.

Create an initial record of the incident

If you decide to take this further, then you are going to have to give a detailed account of what happened. You, therefore, want to capture as much detail as possible while you are still on the scene and the incident is still fresh in your memory. Take photos of the area in which the incident occurred and also of your injuries. Then use your voice recorder to capture everything you can remember.

Get medical attention

If your injuries are really serious, you may have to do this first. Ideally, however, you will record as much as you can beforehand and then go to a doctor or hospital as soon as you can afterwards. Record all expenses related to this including incidental expenses (such as transport) and make a note of what advice and treatment you are given.

Write up the incident and keep a log of its consequences

Turn your quick photos and notes into a detailed record of the incident and keep a log of any negative consequences which occur because of it. For example, if a dog bites your hand with the result that you cannot perform certain tasks, then record this, regardless of whether or not you have to pay for help with them.

Decide whether or not to report the incident to the police

This is a judgement call. From an ethical perspective, if you believe that the dog is dangerous then you should report the matter regardless of whether or not you believe the police can do anything about it. In practical terms, if you are having issues locating the owner of the dog and/or your witnesses, then the police may be able to help (but they may not).

If, however, the dog does not seem dangerous, you have identified the owner and they seem co-operative, then you might want to think carefully about going to the police at this stage. It may antagonize them to the point where a situation which could have been resolved fairly amicably will turn into a long-drawn-out fight – which you might lose.

Speak to a private lawyer

Unless you are on extremely good terms with the dog’s owner, then it’s strongly advisable to have a private lawyer approach them about making good the incident. This not only shows that you are serious in your intent but also ensures that the approach to the dog’s owner is made lawfully. This can save you from the prospect of a reasonable request for compensation being framed as an attempt to extort money unreasonably.