Children and Dog Bites

Children, in particular those aged 5-9, are the most common victims of dog bite attacks.  There are a number of possible reasons for this fact.  

•    Children are at the same physical height and eye level as many dogs and the animal may misinterpret the child as an enemy or attacker;
•    Many children fail to understand the threat and danger that dogs present;
•    Children may unknowingly antagonize the dog by pulling on its tail, or ears, or otherwise teasing the animal.

Unfortunately, because of similar physical stature and height, many dog bites of children are to the face causing permanent scarring.  This is a very serious injury and one that will stay with a child throughout his or her life.

Another scary statistic is that in many cases (roughly 43% according to one estimate) the victim was bitten by the family pet or another familiar dog.

In Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the law helps protect children who have been the victim of dog bite attacks.  In Rhode Island, the owner of a dog is strictly liable (always responsible) for any attack that occurs outside the home.  If the attack occurs inside the home, the owner is responsible if he or she was aware that the dog posed a danger (i.e. the dog is a dangerous breed such as pit bull or akita, or the dog has bitten a victim in the past).

In Massachusetts, a dog owner is always responsible for attacks on children under the age of 7.  This is because dog owners in Massachusetts are strictly liable for dog attacks unless the victim was trespassing, teasing, or tormenting the animal.  Children under 7 are not self aware enough to be held responsible for teasing or tormenting an animal and, therefore, are not held responsible if the animal attacks.