In the days and weeks after the attack, keep in touch with the victim if possible, and continue showing a genuine interest in his or her condition. Victims often love dogs and may decide to forget the entire thing if you are kind and they are not badly hurt.
What you say can hurt you later. You might have to face charges of some kind. There are three possible places where you and your dog might land:
- Civil court. In most states, dog owners are strictly responsible for injuries from bites. (See Legal Rights of Dog Bite Victims in the USA .)
- Criminal court. Usually you will not face criminal charges. However, if the present attack was serious or if the dog previously bit someone, you could be accused of a variety of crimes. (See Dangerous and vicious dogs and also Criminal penalties for dog bites.)
- “Dog court.” The animal control authorities might take action against you, your dog or both, under state, county and/or municipal laws. (See Dangerous and vicious dogs.)
Some states protect you if you express sympathy and compassion for the victim; those statements will not be used against you.
If you pay the victim’s medical bills or insurance deductible and/or co-payment, you probably will favorably impress the victim and therefore will reduce the chances of a claim or lawsuit against you. However, do not expect your insurance company (if any) to reimburse you. Most policies state that the insurer will not be responsible for any “voluntary” payments that you make.
The local animal control authorities may require that your dog be quarantined. Sometimes the quarantine can be at your own home. Ask whether home quarantine might be agreeable in view of the circumstances that apply to your incident.
If the authorities cite you into “dog court,” you need to prepare a defense. See Protect You and Your Dog.
Locate and preserve your dog’s medical records, including proof that it has received rabies shots. Make a copy of the rabies certificate and give it to the victim, to put his or her mind at ease.
You generally are not required to submit your dog for tests unless the authorities or your insurance company request that you do so. If you suspect that your dog has rabies or some other disease, however, you voluntarily should take steps to warn the victim, and you should talk to your insurance company or an attorney.
Whether you need to seek legal advice depends on the circumstances and whether you were insured. If you have not ruled out criminal consequences in your city and state, contact an attorney who is familiar with dog bite criminal laws. (See Dangerous and Vicious Dogs.) If you are insured, see Report to your insurance company, below. If you do not know whether you are insured, read Insurance for the Dog Owner. If you definitely are not insured, talk to an attorney if:
- The victim asks for money
- You are paying a significant amount of money to the victim
- You receive a claim or suspect that the victim will make a claim in the future
- The bite was significant (for example, it drew blood)
- You suspect that your dog has rabies or another significant illness or disease
- You have a bad feeling about the situation or the intentions of the victim
- You hear from the police
- You suspect there may be criminal consequences in your city and state.