Puppy shortages, empty shelters, rescues without any dogs. 2020 was a record year for dog adoption and ownership as Americans forced to stay home because of the pandemic added a four-legged friend to their household. While dogs provide many health benefits and companionship, there are risks to dog-ownership. The enormous rise in dog bite injuries in 2020 shows we need to protect those most susceptible to dog bites -- children -- and ensure responsible dog ownership.
Dog bites cause significant harm to millions of people in the US each year. According to the CDC, children have the highest risk of dog bites, with large incidences and greater severity of injuries. Of the nearly 340 000 emergency department (ED) visits for dog bite injuries each year—equating to more than 900 per day—more than 40% of the victims are children and adolescents.
Increase in Dog Bites During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In an analysis published by the Journal of Pediatrics, physicians at some children’s hospitals reported a three-fold increase in the rates of visits to pediatric emergency departments because of dog bites in the spring and early summer of 2020. Rates of dog bite injuries in the spring were more than double the summer rates, when these types of injuries are typically most common. Some cities, like Minneapolis, ordered all dogs to be leashed after noting a sharp uptick in dog bites there.
The study’s authors conclude that there are a few reasons for the increased number of dog bites during the COVID-19 pandemic. Contributing factors may include the frequency at which children are exposed to the dog during the day because of stay-at-home orders; and, with caregivers taking on more responsibility at home there could be less supervision of the child and dog. Additionally, dogs are susceptible to stress and with more family members at home, more frequently, there is an increased risk of dog aggression and resulting injury.
New Jersey Dog Bite Law
New Jersey is unlike many states in that its statute does not require a dog bite victim to prove that the owner of the dog was negligent. Rather, under New Jersey’s statute, a dog owner is liable for the harm his or her dog causes, regardless of many situations. A dog bite victim need only prove that he or she was bitten by a dog and establish to whom the dog belongs.
There are some exceptions to the strict liability of dog owners provided for in New Jersey’s dog bite statute. For example, if the dog bite victim was trespassing, there is no liability for the dog owner. The same is true where the dog bite victim’s own negligence led to the dog bite, or where a third party’s negligence led to the dog bite. In these cases, a victim may still recover if he or she can successfully prove negligence.
Dog Bite Prevention
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends three key ways to prevent dog bites--education, responsible pet ownership, and avoiding risky situations. The study’s authors also suggest that one of the best ways of preventing harm to children is to ensure children and dogs are always supervised when together.
Brandon J. Broderick, Attorney at Law Is Here for You
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to a dog bite, don’t wait, contact us today for a free consultation. With our proven track record of success and our commitment to client care, we can help you recover damages due to your injuries.