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How to prevent dog bites at holiday celebrations

Many dog bites happen in Michigan during this time of year. This is, in part, because the holidays can be stressful for dogs who are meeting a lot of new visitors, including curious and fearless children.

In order to prevent holiday celebrations from resulting in painful and possibly serious injuries, there are a number of things that people can do to prevent dog bites.

Those who are hosting a party or event and have a household dog should keep the dog away from guests, at least during the most stressful times of the event--such as when guests are coming and going and during dinner preparation. An adult should also be assigned to look after the dog and to watch for unwanted attention from children and signs that the dog is becoming stressed out or agitated.

Most dog bite victims are children, and as such children need to be monitored and ideally kept away from the dogs. It is important to note that even dogs that are normally friendly can become aggressive in stressful or unfamiliar situations.

Those who are attending a party with an animal should do the following and advise children to do the same:

  • Do not approach unfamiliar dogs or pets.
  • Do not run away from a dog or scream.
  • Do not play with a dog unless supervised by its owner.
  • Do not make eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not ever disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or caring for its puppies.
  • If planning to pet the dog, ask its owner and let it sniff you first.
  • When approached by a dog, remain motionless as not to startle it.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and remain still.
  • If you feel uncomfortable around the dog, ask the owner to kennel it or restrain it in another room.

Ultimately, dog owners are responsible when their dogs bite people. This means that they can be held liable for resulting injuries and medical costs. However, it is in everyone's best interests to keep holiday celebrations and other gatherings safe and happy and avoid dog bites.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Dog Bite: Fact Sheet," accessed December 2012

  • To learn more about Michigan's dog bite laws, please take a look at our law firm's Dog Bite Injury page.

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