Insurance companies felt the bite last year as dog bite cases jumped 18 percent across the country, spurring more than $600 million in claims. Accounting for more than one-third of all homeowner liability claims for 2016, the costs averaged $33,230 per claim.
Whether small or large, furry, cuddly, or playful,most dogs are treated as a member of the family. And homeowners believe their dog is harmless and would never hurt anyone or anything. Yet, even the most docile dogs can bite when frightened, threatened, or defending their owner, puppies, or food.
The Massachusetts General law c. 140 § 155 (otherwise known as the “Dog Bite statute”) is very clear that dog bites are considered liability claims, and, therefore, do not require wrongful or negligent acts on the part of the owner or keeper. The only exception is if the injured person was committing a trespass or other tort, or teasing, tormenting or abusing the dog. But, if the incident involves children under seven-years-old, it’s presumed the child was not committing such acts.
And it’s not just injuries from dog bites that are covered – scratching or knocking people down, either viciously or playfully, as well as damaging property are also liabilities.
Here are some tips:
Train properly. Teach puppies that any contact of their mouth with human skin or clothes is unacceptable, even if they are playing. Create a socialization plan specifically for your dogs that exposes them to the animals, individuals, environments, activities, and objects they are likely to encounter. Take steps to control jumping on others.
Let others know about your dog. If your dog doesn’t like being petted by strangers, take steps to prevent it from happening.
Understand their fears. Oftentimes dogs are aggressive and bite because they are scared. Understand the source of fear and work with them to overcome it.
Get help for behavioral problems. For dogs with special behavioral needs, develop a plan with your veterinarian and/or another animal behavior expert.
Always supervise with children. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children. Many children don’t know how to behave with dogs and their sudden movements and acts of affection can frighten dogs and cause them to react by biting.
Place a “Beware of Dog” sign on your property. This won’t get you off the hook if there is an incident, but it places others on notice when approaching your home.
Obey leash laws.
Understand your liability coverage. Contact us if you have any questions.