Dog Bites and Liability in Massachusetts

Animal control officers in Dennis, Massachusetts, reported an unprecedented uptick in dog bites and other animal attacks recently. Members of the Cape Cod community suffered 13 animal bites in just two months in the summer of 2012, with nine occurring in July alone, Wicked Local Dennis reported. A veteran animal control officer said she had never before witnessed so many bites in such a short period.

Preventing Dog Bites

The primary responsibility for preventing dog bites and other animal attacks lies with the person who owns or is in possession of the animal. Pet owners in Massachusetts have a legal responsibility to prevent their pets from harming others. However, there are several steps that everyone can take to help keep themselves and their loved ones safe by reducing their chances of being bitten by a dog or other animal.

One of the easiest ways to prevent dog bites is simply to avoid contact with unfamiliar or unaccompanied animals, regardless of how calm or friendly they may appear. Even when the owner is present, always ask permission before approaching a strange dog. In addition, never "surprise" a dog by touching it - always let a dog see and sniff you before petting it. Also avoid interrupting a dog while it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies, as these may cause it to become aggressive.

When approached by a strange dog, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises people to remain still and to refrain from running away or screaming, which may agitate the dog. The CDC also suggests avoiding direct eye contact with dogs, and recommends rolling into a ball and lying still if knocked to the ground by a dog.

Massachusetts Dog Bite Liability

Under Massachusetts law, dog owners are strictly liable for injuries caused by their pets. This means that they are responsible for any dog bites or other injuries that their pets may inflict, regardless of the steps they may have taken to prevent these injuries, such as keeping a dog on a leash or in an enclosed area. As a result, people attacked by dogs in Massachusetts can often recover financial compensation for their injuries, medical bills and other expenses, either directly from the dog owner or through the owner's insurance company.

Strict liability may not apply, however, when the injured person provoked the dog or was trespassing in an area where he or she was not authorized to be. Children under the age of seven who suffer dog bites are presumed not to have trespassed or provoked the attacking dog, meaning that dog owners are more likely to be held liable for injuries to young children. To learn more about dog bite liability in Massachusetts, or for help pursuing compensation for a dog bite, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer.

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