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What to Know about Dog Bites

by | May 7, 2020 | Firm News


In the United States, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year, and more than 800,000 people receive medical attention from dog bites.  American Veterinarian Association, Dog Bite Prevention (accessed May 7, 2020). At least half of those bitten are children, and senior citizens are the second most common victims. Id.

Dog bites can be fatal, although this is rare.  In one study of 56 dog bite related fatalities in the United States from 2000 to 2009, common factors that contributed to such deaths included: (1) no able-bodied person being present to intervene, (2) the victim’s compromised state, such as age or impaired physical condition, and (3) the owner’s abuse or neglect of the dog.  Patronek, G.J., Sacks, J.J., Delise, K.M., Cleary, D.V., & Marder, A.R., Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States, Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (accessed May 7, 2020).

In addition to physical injuries, the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”) reports that dog bites may also cause a person to contract rabies, MRSA, or tetanus. Center for Disease Control, Healthy Pets, Healthy People (accessed May 7, 2020). Dogs may bite as a reaction to a stressful situation, because they are scared, or to protect themselves, their puppies, or their owners.  Canine Journal, Dog Bite Statistics (accessed May 7, 2020). The CDC offers advice on how to prevent dog bites:


  • Ask if it is okay to pet someone else’s dog before reaching out to pet the dog.

  • When approached by an unfamiliar dog, remain motionless.

  • If a dog knocks you over, curl into a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck.

  • Immediately let an adult know about any stray dogs or dogs that are behaving strangely.


  • Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog.

  • Don’t panic or make loud noises.

  • Don’t disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.

  • Don’t pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.

  • Don’t let small children play with a dog unsupervised.

Center for Disease Control, Healthy Pets, Healthy People (accessed May 7, 2020).


Common injuries from dog bites include puncture wounds and cuts, contusions and abrasions, and fractures during a fall. If you have been bitten or attacked by a dog, you should go to the nearest emergency room or seek other emergency medical care.  You should also report the bite to law enforcement and to your local Animal Care and Control group.  In Cook County, Animal Control and Rescue receives calls regarding dog bites. City of Chicago, Animal Care and Control (accessed May 7, 2020); see also 510 ILCS 5/3 and 510 ILCS 5/13 (allowing for Illinois county boards to appoint veterinarian administrators to receive reports of animal attacks).


The Illinois Animal Control Act (the “Act”) imposes liability on owners of animals that attack or injure other persons.  510 ILCS 5/16. The only defenses that an animal’s owner may raise under the Act are: (1) that the person who was injured was not acting peacefully, or (2) that the injured person provoked the dog. Id. A person injured by another’s dog or animal may also bring a common law negligence action against the owner of the animal. Lucas v. Kriska, 168 Ill. App. 3d 317 (1st Dist. 1988).

The City of Chicago also has regulations concerning animal care and control.  The Chicago Municipal Code (“CMC”) requires owners of dogs to keep them properly restrained (see CMC 7-12-030) and to report dog bites to the Executive Director of the Animal Control Department within 24 hours of a bite (see CMC 7-12-90).  If an animal is declared to be dangerous by the Executive Director, the owner must take additional steps to restrain the dog in order to protect children and others, and placing warning signs to keep away from the animal.  CMC 7-12-050.  Owners may also be fined for animals that attack or bite others.  Owners of animals may be fined for violating the Code.  CMC 7-12-90.


A person injured by another person’s dog may recover for things like medical bills, emotional trauma and distress, lost wages, and any scarring or disfigurement.  An injured person may also recover for future medical bills and loss of normal life.

If you have been injured by a dog or other animal and are considering filing a lawsuit, please contact Arlo.