What Happens When a Dog Bites a Child & What to Do?

What happens when a dog bites a child in Utah can be a distressing and alarming situation for any family. Each year there are hundreds of thousands of dog bites reported across the country and oftentimes children are prey to these bites. Even the most well-behaved dogs can occasionally exhibit aggression or fear leading to a bite. When this unfortunate event occurs involving a child, it brings about unique challenges and concerns. In this post, we’ll explore the aftermath of such incidents, including legal aspects and potential medical issues. We’ll also discuss the crucial steps parents, guardians, and dog owners should take to ensure the safety and well-being of both the child and the dog.

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What To Do If Someone’s Dog Bites Your Child 

If someone’s dog bites your child, it’s vital that you take immediate and appropriate actions to ensure your child’s safety and well-being. Here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Seek Medical Attention: The first priority is your child’s health. Assess the severity of the bite and, if necessary, take your child to the nearest medical facility. Even seemingly minor bites can lead to infections or complications, so it’s important to have a healthcare professional evaluate the injury. 
  2. Identify the Dog and Owner: Obtain the dog owner’s contact information and the dog’s vaccination records if possible. This information will be important for any legal or medical requirements. 
  3. Document the Incident: Document the circumstances surrounding the dog bite. This includes taking photos of the wound, the location where the bite occurred, and any visible injuries. This documentation can be valuable if you need to file a report or pursue legal action. 
  4. Report the Incident: Depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to report the dog bite to local animal control or law enforcement. They can provide guidance on what steps to take next and may initiate an investigation if necessary. 
  5. Follow Medical Recommendations: Adhere to any treatment or follow-up care recommended by the healthcare provider. This may include wound care, vaccinations, or antibiotics to prevent infection.
  6. Consult Legal Counsel: If the dog bite resulted from negligence or irresponsible ownership, you may want to consult a lawyer to explore your legal options. Laws regarding dog bites can vary by location, so legal advice can help you understand your rights and potential courses of action. 


How to Treat Your Child’s Injuries After a Dog Bite 

Treating your child’s injuries after a dog bite is a paramount concern to ensure their physical and emotional well-being. Medical attention from a qualified medical professional should be sought for any dog bite. Here are some essential steps to follow: 

  • Assess the Severity: Evaluate the extent of the injury. If it’s a minor wound, you may be able to treat it at home. However, if the bite is deep, has puncture wounds, or shows signs of infection, seek medical attention promptly. 
  • Control Bleeding: If the wound continues to bleed, apply a clean cloth or bandage and maintain pressure. If bleeding doesn’t stop within 10-15 minutes, or if it’s profuse, seek immediate medical assistance. 
  • Prevent Infection: Apply an over-the-counter antibiotic ointment and cover the wound with a sterile bandage or dressing. This helps prevent infection and keeps the wound clean. Keep an eye out for any signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, warmth, or pus, and consult a healthcare professional if they occur. 
  • Pain Management: Over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help manage pain and reduce inflammation if recommended by a healthcare provider. 
  • Medical Evaluation: Even if the wound appears minor, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional. They can assess the injury, determine if any underlying structures are affected, and provide appropriate treatment, such as stitches or antibiotics.
  • Vaccination Status: Ensure your child’s tetanus vaccination is up to date. Dog bites can introduce bacteria into the wound, potentially causing tetanus.


How to Prevent Your Dog From Biting Your Child 

Preventing dog bites on children mainly involves vigilant supervision. It’s worth noting that a significant portion of dog bite incidents occur on the dog owner’s property, indicating that parents may sometimes overlook necessary safety measures. 

It can be hard for children to distinguish between a friendly and aggressive dog, so they should refrain from attempting to pet an unfamiliar dog without adult supervision. Encouraging children to remain composed and avoid screaming or running is crucial, as these actions can trigger an immediate attack response in the dog. 

Conversely, dog owners bear a significant responsibility in ensuring their dogs remain within their property’s boundaries. This is especially critical if the dog exhibits aggressive tendencies and is trained to protect against intruders. Restricting a dog’s access to public spaces can help prevent potentially dangerous situations and protect both the dog and others from harm. 

Who is Responsible? 

In Utah, the owner’s “strict liability” applies in cases of dog bites. This means that dog owners in the state are held legally responsible for any injuries or damages their dogs cause through biting, regardless of the dog’s prior behavior or the owner’s knowledge of it. Unlike the “one-bite rule”, which provides leeway for a dog’s first bite, Utah imposes a strict obligation on dog owners to ensure that their pets don’t harm others. This strict liability underscores the importance of responsible dog ownership in Utah. Owners are not only responsible for their dogs’ behavior but also for taking precautions to prevent biting incidents. 

Exemptions From Strict Liability 

Even though Utah is a strict liability state, there are circumstances where exemptions or defenses might come into play. These exceptions could include situations where the person bitten was trespassing, engaged in criminal activity on the owner’s property, or provoked the dog. Additionally, if the owner had displayed clear warning signs or the victim’s actions significantly contributed to the incident, it could affect the owner’s liability.


Are There Criminal Penalties in Utah? 

Yes, there can be criminal penalties in Utah related to dog bites or attacks. This can be especially true if the incident involves serious injuries or if the dog owner’s actions are deemed reckless or negligent. Criminal charges could include offenses such as reckless endangerment, assault, or even

animal cruelty. These charges may lead to fines, probation, or even imprisonment, particularly if it’s established that the owner was aware of their dog’s aggressive tendencies or failed to take reasonable precautions. The severity of the penalties typically depends on the specific details of the case and any prior history of similar incidents involving the dog or owner.

Resulting Injuries From Dogs Biting Children 

Resulting injuries from dogs biting children can range from mild to severe, often depending on factors such as the dog’s size, breed, and the circumstances of the bite. Common injuries include: 

  • Puncture Wounds: Dog bites can lead to deep puncture wounds that may become infected if not treated promptly. 
  • Cuts and Abrasions: Superficial cuts and abrasions are also common and can vary in severity. 
  • Bruises and Hematomas: Bites can cause bruising and hematomas, which are collections of blood under the skin. 
  • Tissue Damage: In more serious cases, dog bites can result in tissue damage, tearing muscles, tendons, or ligaments. 
  • Fractures: Children, particularly those with fragile bones, can suffer bone fractures if bitten forcefully. 
  • Infections: Infection risk is significant, as a dog’s mouth contains various bacteria. It’s crucial to clean and treat bite wounds to prevent infection. 
  • Scarring and Disfigurement: Severe bites may leave permanent scars or disfigurement, which can have both physical and emotional implications for a child. 
  • Psychological Trauma: Beyond physical injuries, dog bites can also lead to psychological trauma, including fear of dogs or post-traumatic stress.
  • Nerve Damage: In some instances, bites can damage nerves, leading to loss of sensation or function in the affected area.

Why Dogs Bite Children 

Understanding why dogs may bite children is vital for promoting safe interactions between the two. While dogs are often considered family members and are usually well-intentioned, several factors can lead to canine aggression or biting incidents involving children.

  1. Fear or Anxiety: Dogs may bite out of fear or anxiety. Children, with their unpredictable movements and high-pitched voices, can be intimidating to some dogs. If a dog feels cornered or threatened, it may resort to biting as a means of self-defense. 
  2. Territorial Behavior: Dogs are territorial animals, and they may become protective of their space or belongings. Children inadvertently intruding on a dog’s territory, such as its bed or food dish, can trigger defensive behavior. 
  3. Pain or Discomfort: Dogs that are in pain or discomfort may react aggressively if a child unintentionally touches or interacts with the painful area. Dogs may also bite if they have an underlying medical condition that makes them irritable. 
  4. Lack of Socialization: Dogs that have not been adequately socialized with children may not understand how to interact with them. This lack of exposure can make dogs fearful or uncertain when confronted with children’s actions. 
  5. Resource Guarding: Dogs may bite when they feel their resources, like food, toys, or attention, are being threatened or taken away. Children unknowingly approaching a dog during these moments can trigger a defensive response. 
  6. Maternal Instinct: Some mother dogs may become protective of their puppies and may perceive children as a potential threat to their offspring, leading to protective or aggressive behavior. 
  7. Lack of Training and Boundaries: Dogs that have not received proper training or clear boundaries may not know how to behave around children. This can lead to confusion and potentially aggressive reactions when interacting with kids. 


What Happens When a Dog Bites a Child Conclusion 

Experiencing a dog bite incident involving your child can be a terrifying and overwhelming ordeal, leaving you unsure of the next steps to take. At Harris, Preston and Chambers, we understand the emotional and legal complexities that come with such situations. Our team has extensive experience in handling various legal issues related to dog bites and is here to provide you with the guidance, support, and expertise you need during this challenging time. We are committed to helping you navigate the legal process, seek compensation if applicable, and ensure the best possible outcome for your child’s recovery. Your family’s well-being is our priority, and you can trust us to advocate for your rights and provide the guidance you need to move forward. Click the button below to request a call!




*Nothing herein constitutes legal advice. You should obtain independent legal counsel regarding your specific factual situation.