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Much of current UK law used by dog bite solicitors is contained in the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and in common law in the form of previous cases that have set current standards not contained in legislation. British dog bite law does not, contrary to public opinion, allow a dog the "first bite free" and a solicitors compensation claim is possible for a "first bite" provided that the dog has previously shown aggressive tendencies. If a dog has displayed any sign of aggression in a previous incident then the owner or keeper or person in control of the dog at the time of a subsequent attack, may be liable to pay compensation for personal injury. For the owner of a dog that has bitten to be liable to pay compensation it is not necessary for a dog bite solicitor to show that the dog had bitten previously - it is sufficient to merely show that the dog was known to be aggressive or had shown aggressive tendencies on at least one previous occasion by growling, snarling, attempting to bite or violently straining at a leash.

Muzzle In Public

The Dangerous Dogs Act came into being in May 1991 and totally changed canine law in the UK. Pit Bull Terriers and any other exempted breeds have to be muzzled in public, registered on the Index of Exempted Breeds and micro chipped, tattooed and insured. Any Pit Bull Terrier or Pit Bull 'type' unregistered after November 1991 can be seized and is liable to be destroyed under the legislation. Any personal injury caused by an exempted breed will lead to compensation being payable following legal action by a dog bite solicitor even if the dog showed no previous signs of aggression. Section 3 of the Act, which covers all dogs in the UK stipulates that any dog "dangerously out of control in a public place" would also be liable for destruction.

Guard Dogs

Guard Dogs fall into an entirely different category of dog bite law and it is illegal for a guard dog to be active in any premises unless a handler capable of control is also present on the premises, except when the animal is secured so that it is not at liberty to go freely around the premises. The use of guard dogs is illegal unless a clearly visible warning notice is clearly exhibited at the entrance to the premises.


Children are most often attacked which is usually due to their lack of experience regarding the dangers. Even an animal that a child is very familiar with can lose control and attack a child under certain conditions. The most vulnerable age group is children aged between five and nine years old but smaller children can also be seriously injured. Seventy percent of fatal attacks and more than half of wounds requiring medical attention involve children. These injuries usually result in dog bite claims and are a leading cause of emergency admission of children to hospitals. Children's natural behaviour of running, shouting, grabbing, hitting and maintaining eye contact, puts them at risk of injury. Proximity of a child's face to the dog increases the likelihood that facial injuries will occur.

If your child is injured by a dog bite, you should see an emergency medical professional to have the wound evaluated and to have it thoroughly irrigated and repaired, if necessary. If there is a chance of infection, the doctor will prescribe preventative antibiotics. Infections from dog bites treated properly are not common but they can be dangerous if left untreated for too long. Your next port of call should be to a dog bite solicitor if a third party was responsible for the dog and acted negligently.

Children's bones are not as strong as adult's bones. Dogs have large, crushing jaws that can fracture distal arms and legs, facial bones and even the skull. The crush injuries involved in bite wounds can lead to tissue death and an increase in infection. Nerves can be damaged in a crush injury and some of that nerve damage cannot be repaired. If you feel that there is any underlying disability going on, such as favouring an arm or limping, have the doctor do an x-ray to see if any bony damage was done.

Dog bites have a tendency to scar and because they are not nice, neat lines, the scars can look really bad at times. Scars change in their appearance over time so you need to wait at least 9-12 months to see what a scar is going to look like before going ahead and seeing a plastic surgeon about a revision or other treatment of the scar. When the child is under the age of 5, the appearance of the scar can vary greatly after time passes. Young children's skin has a tendency to rejuvenate itself so it can begin to look better after a few years have passed. Only time will tell what a wound will ultimately look like.

Your child may be severely emotionally scarred after sustaining a dog bite. He or she may be mortally afraid of dogs and may have a change in their normal friendly demeanour after suffering a severe dog bite. Some kids have problems just going outside. Many of these fears pass with time but if they do not, seek the professional help of a qualified therapist to help your child work through his or her fears of dogs or just fears in general that have come up since being bitten by a dog.

Dog Bite Injuries

A patient injured because of a dog bite can sustain a number of injuries including lacerations, abrasions, deep puncture wounds, crushing wounds of the tissue, bone fractures, tissue loss from avulsion of tissue, sprains or strains of the muscles and ligaments, and scars. Infections can occur from rabies, especially if the dog has not been immunized against rabies, staph or strep cellulitis or infections from C. canimorsus, a bacterium found in the saliva of dogs. Depending on the location of the bite, there can be serious nerve damage and damage to blood vessels, resulting in excessive bleeding. Dogs who bite the face can bite down hard enough to cause fractures of the facial bones so this should be assessed in situations where a facial injury exists. Damages awarded as dog bite compensation can be substantial. If you have been bitten you should see a dog bite solicitor as soon as you can.

Facial fractures occur in children rather than adults, with 87 percent of dog bites resulting in facial fractures happening in kids. Most of the time, the fracture was around the nose, eye or jawbone. It is therefore recommended that a CT scan of the facial region be done in cases of dog bites to the face when a fracture is suspected or when large dog breeds were involved in the incident.

Because puncture wounds are often involved in dog bites, infection rates are very high. If the infection is caused by C. canimorsus and occurs in people who do not have the best immune system, the patient can become septic from this organism with a death rate of about 28 percent. Infections and sepsis from Staphylococcal infections and Streptococcal infections can happen and can lead to death. Common symptoms of sepsis include high fever, muscle pain, malaise, GI symptoms, abdominal pain, shortness of breath, confusion, rash and headache.

In more minor situations, the patient can have localized cellulitis or tissue infection around the lacerations, abrasions or puncture wounds. These need to be treated aggressively with antibiotics and debridement of dead tissue so as to avoid eventual sepsis. The prevention of infection is, in fact, the number one priority the doctor has in cases of dog bite injuries. The wound must be carefully irrigated with normal saline under pressure so as to get the bacteria off the wound. Puncture wounds must be especially irrigated with saline. The consequences of not irrigating properly include sepsis, localized wound infection, tenosynovitis, osteomyelitis and septic arthritis.

Tetanus must also be considered along with rabies. If the patient cannot remember when he or she had a tetanus shot or has not had a tetanus shot within the last five years, one should be administered. If the dog is known to be rabid, there should be prophylactic treatment against rabies. This is also true if the dog is an unknown and cannot be found for testing. Wound cultures are not very helpful on fresh wounds but if an infection is brewing, a culture can help the doctor decide what kind or kinds of antibiotics should be used to treat the patient.

Dog bites to the face and neck are at special risk because of the incidence of nerve and vessel damage. Skull fractures have been known to occur in children especially and they can sustain severe brain injury because of the dog bite. Deaths from head and neck trauma are especially problematic in children whose bones have not yet completely developed and whose skull is malleable. The nose, mouth and the side of the face are common places for dog bites, especially in children. This area is close to the carotid artery which, if injured, can result in exsanguination and death. Damage to the carotid artery can result in the patient sustaining a secondary stroke.

Treatment of Dog Bite Wounds

Certain dog bite wounds can be closed primarily with suture tape or sutures. These are wounds that have been completely irrigated out and that would result in a significant defect if not for the closure. Antibiotics must be used at the time of the closure of the wound. Antibiotics should also be utilized in situations of high risk wounds such as those involving tendons and ligaments, those with bony involvement, puncture wounds, hand and foot wounds and any bite that had a delay in treatment of greater than 12 hours before arriving to the emergency room. Patients who are immuno-compromised in some way also need antibiotic treatment following a dog bite injury. Lower risk wounds are those that occur in areas with good blood supply, such as the body, face and upper extremities.

If the tissue is heavily damaged or “chewed up”, the surgeon may have to de-bride the damaged tissue away. De-briding the wound might later be followed with a skin graft or other surgery to close the wound and create the best possible cosmetic outcome. More than one surgery might need to happen.

Scar Treatment

The dog bite will usually leave a scar. The scar may be acceptable or it can be disfiguring or disabling. Some people grow large, ugly scars called keloid scars. In such cases, the scar tissue grows out of control. Doctors have several methods for improving the appearance of scars. Some of these therapies include dermabrasion, in which the scar is sanded down, pressure scar modification, cosmetics or surgical excision of the scar with revision of its appearance. A dog bite solicitor is often able to secure substantial damages as a result of visible scarring.

Emotional Effects of a Dog Bite

A dog bite can be a horrible and painful event that affects you mentally, emotionally and physically. It is normal to feel nervous, afraid or even depressed after sustaining a dog bite. You may develop family or other personal problems. You can even develop a condition known as post traumatic stress disorder. This is when you begin to have bad dreams about the event, you have anxiety and fear in situations that remind you of getting bit and you can have flashbacks of the time you were bit.

If you develop post-traumatic stress disorder, you may need to see a mental health counselor for many months after the event happened. Therapy for the disorder is designed to lessen your anxiety and improve your ability to get along with your regular life even though you have gone through a traumatic experience.

You can develop an abnormal, irrational, and morbid fear of any type of dog after sustaining a dog bite injury. This can also be helped in therapy but might get better with regular psychotherapy or specialized psychotherapy that involves exposure to dogs. It may take some time before you can learn to trust animals, especially dogs, again.

Dog Bite Solicitors

Our dog bite solicitors deal with compensation claims using the no win no fee* scheme otherwise known as a conditional fee agreement. No legal charge is payable unless the legal case is won and the client obtains an award of compensation. In the event that the legal claim is lost there is no charge made to the client. If you or your child has been the victim of an attack, we can help you assert your rights and get the compensation you deserve. If you would like free legal advice on dog bite law or the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 just use the helpline or complete the contact form and a member of the Solicitors Regulation Authority panel of personal injury experts will speak to you on the telephone without further obligation.



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The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here