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Bit by a dog? The property owner may be liable

Annually, almost 4.5 million individuals get bitten by dogs. Over half of those who need treatment for their injuries are youngsters. Statistics from the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that dog bites are the third main cause of kids being admitted as emergency patients to hospitals.

The great majority of these attacks are entirely preventable. Despite media campaigns against certain breeds, evidence does not support theory that certain breeds are more likely to bite. The majority of bites come from people's own pets or dogs they know.

A good rule of thumb is if it has teeth, it is capable of biting, and any animal that is teased or provoked is a potential threat. But there are simple ways to minimize the risk of a dog bite injury.

-- Don't ever leave babies or young children alone with dogs.

-- Ask the owner if the dog may be approached and petted before trying.

-- Moms are protective of their pups. Even if it is your own dog, don't pick up newborn puppies.

-- If a dog is asleep or eating, don't disturb it.

-- Don't stick hands or fingers through or over fences to pet a dog; you are encroaching on its territory.

-- If a dog comes up to you and sniffs you, let it. Don't jump, run away or scream. Most dogs will mosey on after determining you mean no harm.

-- If a dog acts threatening, don't make eye contact. Look away, and without turning your back on it, back away slowly.

-- If a dog knocks you down, curl up into a ball, with head down and ears covered with fisted hands. Remain as still as possible.

If the worst happens and you get bit, seek medical attention immediately. Make a police report and document your injuries with photos. You may be able to seek compensation for your injuries from the owner of the property where your injury occurred even if the dog's owner can't be identified.

Source: Mercy Children's Hospital & Clinics, "Preventing Dog Bites," accessed Oct. 02, 2015

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