A black dog biting a wooden stick

Reporting and Filing a Dog Bite in California

Dogs are beloved in their role as “man’s best friend,” but it’s important to be aware that some may be dangerous. Every year, millions of people suffer from dog bite injuries. Some of those injuries are fatal — in 2020, there were 46 deaths due to dog bites in the United States.

If you ever find yourself a victim of a dog bite, you need to know how to protect your safety and legal rights. In this article, you’ll find information on types of dog bites, the importance of reporting a dog bite, and the process for reporting a dog bite in California.

Types of Dog Bites

Generally, medical professionals and dog behavior specialists use Dr. Ian Dunbar’s dog bite scale to classify dog bites into six levels:

  • Level 1: The dog displays aggressive or obnoxious behavior, but its teeth don’t make skin contact.
  • Level 2: The dog’s teeth make skin contact but don’t puncture the skin. However, skin nicks (less than 1/10 inch deep) or slight bleeding caused by scraping against the teeth (no vertical puncture) may be observed.
  • Level 3: This involves a single bite that causes one to four punctures. Punctures are no deeper than half the length of the dog’s canines. Lacerations in a single direction (caused by either the victim or the dog pulling away) may be observed. At this level, dogs can become a threat to people and animals.
  • Level 4: This is a single bite causing one to four punctures. At least one puncture is deeper than half the length of the dog’s canines. Deep bruising or lacerations in both directions may be observed.
  • Level 5: Level 5 involves multiple Level 4 bites or multiple attacks with at least one Level 4 bite. At this level, euthanasia of the dog may be recommended.
  • Level 6: The bite causes the victim’s death.

Why You Should File a Dog Bite Report

You may have second thoughts about reporting a dog bite if a dog has bitten you. Unfortunately, this is common among victims — some may be friends or family of the dog owner; others may be afraid of retaliation from the owner, and others may not want harm to come to the dog itself. However, reporting a dog bite serves everyone’s best interests regardless of the circumstances.

At the very least, you should report the incident to your local animal control agency. They can give you instructions on filing a report and assist you in identifying the dog. This will help protect other people from being attacked by the same dog, as the owner will be more likely to watch their dog closely if the authorities are involved. Reporting the dog to animal control can ensure its future care and protection if it is abused or neglected. In extreme cases, a dangerous dog may be taken away and put down to ensure that no further people are harmed.

Another key reason for reporting a dog bite is to help you recover compensation for your injuries. Dog bites fall under personal injury law, which means you’re entitled to compensation from the responsible party whose recklessness or negligence caused your injuries.

Even minor bites can be painful, resulting in medical bills. If the dog isn’t up-to-date on its rabies shots, you will need to get them yourself. If your injury is particularly debilitating, you may even miss out on income from an inability to work. You may even suffer emotional damages (like a fear of dogs). Reporting a dog bite and filing a personal injury claim can allow you to secure financial compensation for your damages.

How To File a Dog Bite Report

Immediately after a dog bite, you should seek medical attention. Dog bites carry a high risk of infection, so the sooner your injuries are treated, the better.

Aside from seeking treatment, document your injuries. Take photos and videos of your condition, write down what you recall about the incident, and request contact information from possible witnesses.

Afterward, contact your local animal control agency, either listed under the county’s health department, the humane society, the local police department, or another entity. Animal control agencies will have varying reporting processes — some may require a phone call, while others may have an online form.

Once you have contacted the animal control agency, they can provide information on the dog’s history, such as any prior bite incidents. Animal control may also launch their investigation into the incident by interviewing witnesses, issuing subpoenas, or holding hearings to establish the facts of the incident and determine what penalties are applicable (monetary fines, removing the dog from the owner’s care, etc.).

To secure compensation for your injuries, hire a dog bite lawyer to help you file a personal injury claim. They can investigate your case, calculate the damages you suffered from the incident, negotiate with the responsible party and insurance company, and represent you in court, if necessary.

Get the Help of an Experienced Dog Bite Lawyer

Reporting a dog bite can be complex, requiring the participation of the dog owner, the dog owner’s insurance company, the local animal control center, and the local authorities. If you feel the process is too difficult to handle alone, consider seeking a dog bite lawyer.

We’ve handled many dog bite cases over the years, and our California dog bite lawyers have the skills and experience to ensure you get the compensation you deserve. Call us at (213) 252-1070 or contact us online for a free consultation today.

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