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Sometimes man’s best friend can actually turn out to be your foe. Dog bites can happen to anyone, anywhere, and the consequences can be severe. When faced with such a harrowing experience, it’s crucial to have someone on your side who understands the intricacies of the legal system and has the expertise to help you navigate the aftermath.

With over six decades of collective legal experience, the personal injury attorneys at LawtonCates are here to provide support and guidance throughout the entire legal process, helping you regain a sense of control and peace of mind. We offer our clients personalized attention and service and have the resources and skills needed to act as your advocate for you.

Contact us for a free in office or virtual consultation online. Learn how our Madison dog bite attorneys can help you by calling (608) 282-6200.

Causes of Dog Bites

Dog bites can be caused by several factors, including fear, territorial behavior, or protective instincts. Stray or dangerous breeds may be more prone to biting due to a lack of socialization, abuse, or neglect. Dogs may also bite if they are startled, feel threatened, or perceive a person or another animal as a threat to their owner or territory.

To avoid dog bite incidents, follow these guidelines:

  • Do not approach unfamiliar dogs, especially if they are displaying aggressive or avoidant behavior.
  • Always ask for permission before petting someone else’s dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies.
  • Teach children how to safely interact with dogs and supervise their interactions with unfamiliar pets.
  • Avoid running or making sudden movements around dogs, as this may provoke a chase or attack.

Wisconsin Dog Bite Statute

Under Wisconsin Statute § 174.02 (1), dog owners have a duty to keep their dogs under control and prevent them from running loose. They must also take steps to prevent their dogs from harming other animals, people, and property.

If a dog owner fails to fulfill these obligations and their dog injures someone, the owner may be held liable for the damages. The statute imposes strict liability on the owner, meaning that the injured party does not need to prove that the owner acted negligently or believed their dog might attack.

However, there are exceptions that can protect dog owners from liability including:  

  • Provocation. If the injured party provoked the dog, the owner may not be held liable for the injuries. For example, if a person intentionally taunts or harms the dog, leading to the bite, the owner might not be found responsible.
  • Trespassing. If the injured party was trespassing on the dog owner’s property when the bite occurred, the owner may have a defense against liability.
  • Government or police dogs. The statute does not apply to government or police dogs that bite someone while performing their official duties.

Severity of Dog Bites

The dog bite scale, created by distinguished veterinarian and animal behaviorist Dr. Ian Dunbar, is an indispensable tool for assessing the severity of dog bites. It classifies bites according to their intensity and resulting damage, distinguishing between six levels of severity: 

  • Level 1 bites refer to aggressive behavior, with no actual skin contact.
  • Level 2 bites involve skin contact but no puncture. Minor scratches and bruises may also be present.
  • Level 3 bites leave one to four puncture marks, none deeper than half the length of the dog’s canines.
  • Level 4 bites feature one to four punctures, with at least one exceeding half the length of the dog’s canines. This may cause tearing or slashing in a single direction.
  • Level 5 bites encompass multiple bites at or above Level 4.
  • Level 6 bites prove fatal to the victim.

Risks and Consequences of Untreated Dog Bites

An untreated or overlooked dog bite can lead to several complications, including:

  • Infection. Dog bites can introduce bacteria into the wound, leading to infections such as cellulitis or even sepsis if left untreated.
  • Scarring. Deep bites or punctures can result in permanent scarring and disfigurement.
  • Emotional trauma. Dog bite victims do not only need to receive treatment for their physical wounds. Victims of dog bites may experience anxiety, fear, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), especially if the attack was severe.

If a Dog Bites You, Do the Following Things Immediately

If you are bitten by a dog and the wound does not seem too severe, wash the affected area. Clean the bite with mild soap and water for at least five minutes to remove any bacteria and debris. This helps reduce the risk of infection. Then, cover and bandage the wound with a clean, sterile dressing to protect it from dirt and bacteria.

If the wound is severe, call emergency services to obtain medical attention. Even if the bite is not severe, it is in your best interest to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and treatment. They may recommend a tetanus shot or rabies vaccination, depending on the circumstances.

After a dog bite, you should also:

  • Ask for the dog owner’s contact information and name
  • Contact the local animal control office (especially if the dog’s owner cannot be found)
  • Take pictures of your injuries and property damage as well as the dog
  • Get statements and contact information from any witnesses
  • Contact a trusted dog bite attorney

Call to Schedule an Initial Consultation Today

The Madison dog bite attorneys at LawtonCates can offer you the personalized attention and solution you need. When you work with our firm, you are more than a number, and you can trust that our team will work tirelessly to help you obtain the best possible case results.

Call (608) 282-6200 to schedule an initial consultation today!