Any dog, regardless of size or breed, can cause injuries through a bite. Most dog bites are preventable and are the result of an owner’s negligence, either through neglect, abuse or intentional aggression training.
The Lakewood dog bite lawyers at the Frickey Law Firm are dedicated to helping injury victims recover the financial security they need to cope with medical expenses and restore their lives. If you or a family member was hurt in a dog attack in the greater Denver area, please call 303-237-7373 for your free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.
Front Range Dog Bites by Breed
Comprehensive bite statistics are difficult to obtain, because there is not a uniform system for reporting bites and maintaining dog bite records. However, in late 2014 Denver’s 9News in conjunction with PBS’ I-News conducted an extensive review of available data regarding dog bites along the Front Range.
Based on about 6,500 reported dog bites between 2012 and 2013, the investigation found that the five breeds responsible for the most reported bites in the Denver area were:
- German shepherds
- Pit bulls
It’s important to note that breed identification can be subjective, and that many dogs singled out as a specific breed are actually mixed breeds. Breeds in the reported cases were identified by either victims or animal control officials.
A 2014 Westword article noted that pit bulls are the most euthanized dog breed along the Front Range. This is perhaps no surprise given pit bull bans in Denver and a number of surrounding communities.
The most frequently euthanized breeds along the Front Range are:
- Pit bulls
- German shepherds
Not all dogs were euthanized for bites or aggressive behavior. Of the 4,800 dogs euthanized in Front Range shelters between 2012 and 2013, about half were related to aggression; at least a quarter were related to medical conditions.
Another 2014 Westword article also examined the dog breeds with the most—and fewest—bites in the greater Denver area. The five dog breeds with the fewest reported bites were:
- Anatolian shepherd
- Australian kelpie
- Australian terrier
Most of these breeds, in addition to dozens of others, were associated with only one reported bite.
Colorado Dog Bite Laws
Although laws related to dogs vary by municipality, Colorado imposes what is known as “strict liability” when it comes to dog bites. This means that an owner is liable for injuries resulting from a dog attack, even if he or she had no knowledge of a dog’s potentially aggressive nature.
Strict liability applies to economic damages, such as emergency medical expenses and rehabilitation costs. In order to recover noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, the victim must prove that the dog’s owner demonstrated negligent or intentional conduct—such as a violation of leash law or owning a dog with a history of violent behavior—that contributed to the attack and resulting injuries.
The city of Denver defines dangerous dogs as “any dog with a known propensity or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury to or otherwise endanger the safety of humans or other domestic animals” or “any dog that … attacks or bites any person or domestic animal.” While all dog bites that result in injury should be reported, many people who suffer minor injuries—especially those caused by known family pets—don’t report the attacks.
The legal requirements for reporting dog attacks also vary by municipality. Jefferson County law, for example, requires that any animal bite that breaks the skin be reported to Animal Control.
Dog owners are generally not liable for damages if the dog bite victim was trespassing, ignored clear warning signs such as “Beware of Dog” postings, or intentionally provoked the dog.
Dog Bite Injuries
According to the 9News and I-News report, 4 percent of dog bites were categorized as “severe” with the rest classified as “moderate” or “minor.” Severe dog bites included those that, at minimum, required stitches; many dog bites categorized as severe resulted in nerve damage, and many also required plastic surgery.
More than 70 percent of dog bites occur on the hands, arms, legs and feet, with bites to the hands being the most common. Bites above the neck are more common among children than adults.
Citing data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Humane Society (AHS) reports than an average of 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and about 885,000 of those bitten require medical attention.
Dog Bites and Children
According to the CDC and AHS, more than half of all dog bite victims are children, and a majority of child victims are under the age of 12. A 2010 study conducted by the University of Colorado School of Medicine found that unsupervised children are most at risk for dog bite injuries.
One of the key factors at play is the size of children relative to dogs. While adult dog bite victims often sustain injuries to their hands, arms and legs, children are more vulnerable to bites around the face and neck.
Young children also lack awareness of how to behave around dogs, the knowledge of how to recognize potential dog aggression, and the physical ability to stop a dog attack. The UC study found that in many cases of dog attacks on children, even if a dog releases after a first bite it will bite again with the secondary attacks often causing greater injuries.
Factors in Dog Bites
Dogs don’t attack or bite without reason, although the reason may not always be evident or make sense to humans. A 2014 Psychology Today article written by a team with the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists described common factors in dog bites including:
- Defense of self or possessions, especially food
- Reaction to pain, either from physical abuse or an unintentional action like stepping on a dog’s tail or paw
- Fear, such as from being cornered or a perceived aggressive action
- Illness or injury
- Rough play
- Isolation or lack of socialization
- Human intervention in fights between dogs
Dogs that are neglected, confined, abused or trained to attack are more likely to bite than dogs that are socialized and receive routine human interaction at home. While certain breeds are linked to greater instances of attacks and bites, breed itself does not predispose a given dog to aggression.
Preventing Dog Bites
To reduce the likelihood of dog bites, the AHS offers the following tips:
- Don’t leave young children unattended with a dog, even the family pet; many dog bites to children are inadvertently provoked and are the result of a dog’s natural defense mechanisms
- Don’t approach unfamiliar dogs
- Don’t make physical contact with an animal that seems to be injured
- Don’t poke, hit, pull or otherwise provoke a dog
- Don’t disturb a dog when it is eating, sleeping or caring for pups
- Always allow unfamiliar dogs to smell you before attempting to pet them
Many dog attacks are initiated by unsocialized stray dogs or dogs that have escaped neglectful confinement. If you are approached by an unfamiliar dog that may be aggressive, the following tips may help you avoid conflict and injury:
- Remain calm and still; do not run, scream or make violent motions toward the dog
- Avoid direct eye contact
- Speak in a low, soothing voice and slowly attempt to back away toward safety
- Watch for physical signs of potential canine aggression: rigid posture, downward-curled corners of the mouth, hair standing along the dog’s neck and back, stiff tail, ears flattened back, tongue flicking, head turned by eyes locked on, lowered head
If you are attacked, curl into a ball and protect your head and neck. Attempt to remain motionless; fighting back in the midst of an attack can further provoke the dog.
If you or a loved one was injured in a dog attack, please contact the Frickey Law Firm online or call us at 303-237-7373. Our accomplished dig bite attorneys have an extensive record of success helping injury victims from Lakewood and the greater Denver area recover the financial security they need to move forward with their lives.