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Dog Bite Injuries

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Dog Bite Injuries

Dog Bite Injuries

 

It seems like every family in Toronto has a dog! Each street has a busy dog-walker; many neighbourhoods boast a pet supply store or a vet clinic; we see friendly little dog faces every time we’re out and about. However, with the growth in dog ownership in the GTA, some problems have arisen. Although the vast majority of dogs you meet will be friendly and well-behaved, there are improperly trained dogs in our city that can pose a danger to other dogs or even to humans.

 

Those of us who frequent parks on a regular basis can’t help but be aware that there is a metaphorical tug-of-war going on between dog owners and other park users. Although there are some parks designated just for dogs, other parks try to balance the needs of both factions by providing an area for dogs within the park. But no matter the rules of the park, the needs of dog-owners and dogs sometimes clash with those of children or others. And in some cases, this can be dangerous or even deadly.

 

Dog Bite Injuries in the GTA

 

The city of Mississauga reports that there were three people bitten at off-leash parks in 2018, and five who were injured in 2017. In the fall of 2018, for example, three-year-old Georgia Lund was attacked and seriously injured at the Parkway Belt leash-free dog park. The dog dragged the girl about 25 feet, and Georgia’s grandfather had to chase and kick the dog until it released her. The girl needed to be hospitalized, and the dog’s owner fled the scene. Following this incident, city officials debated whether or not small children should be banned from off-leash parks. Fortunately, the little girl recovered from her injuries.

 

In May of 2018, a puppy was killed and a twelve-year-old girl was injured in Serena Gundy Park in East York. The girl, the daughter of local resident Lana Novikova, was holding the puppy when a large white dog lunged and took it from her arms. The puppy’s neck was broken and later died, and the girl needed five stitches to close a gash on her arm. Serena Gundy Park has rules stating that all dogs must remain on-leash, something the owner of the white dog disobeyed. Officers attempting to charge the owner were assaulted by the man, who was injured during the altercation and had to be hospitalized. The dog was put into quarantine. Ms. Novikova appealed to authorities to spare the dog’s life, as she felt the owner bore more of the responsibility than the dog did.

 

Also in May, Fido, an older dog who was on a leash, was attacked by three other dogs who ran out of an off-leash park. The dog’s injuries were severe, and the vet bill came to more than $1,400. The owner(s) of the dogs who attacked Fido did not come forward.

 

There are many recent stories about dog bites in other jurisdictions: a three-year-old child in Belleville required 48 stitches when a dog bit her face; a man in Hamilton was bitten by a St. Bernard after being warned not to touch the dog; and a woman in Rocky View, Alberta, died after being attacked by a dog. In Denver, a reporter was bitten on camera when trying to interview a firefighter who had just rescued the pooch from drowning.

 

Preventing Dog Bites

 

As in many of the above stories, there are some circumstances where a dog bite is unpredictable and not preventable. But here are some safety tips that may help to keep you and your family safe from aggressive dogs:

  • Never let children play with a dog unsupervised.
  • If you have a dog, don’t encourage it to play aggressively.
  • Don’t disturb a dog who is eating, sleeping, or looking after its puppies.
  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar unleashed dog.
  • Always ask if it is okay to pet someone else’s dog before getting close to the animal.
    • Accept no for an answer!
    • If the answer is yes, let the dog see and sniff you before trying to touch it.
  • If an unfamiliar dog approaches you, remain still and calm.
  • If you are attacked by a dog:
    • Curl into a ball and cover your ears and neck.
    • Don’t run.
    • Don’t panic or scream.

A Center for Disease Control report states that there are approximately 4.7 million dog bites reported each year in the US. (Of these, 800,000 will require medical care.) While Canadian statistics are more difficult to access, in 2014, there were 767 reported dog bites in the City of Toronto.

 

If you or a family member is injured by a dog, seek medical assistance immediately, and report the bite to authorities. (In Toronto you can call 311 and ask to speak to someone at Animal Control Services.)

 

If the dog is owned by someone other than yourself, you may be able to recover damages. Consult with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible to find out whether you may be eligible for compensation for pain and suffering, medical costs, loss of income, or other expenses.

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