Image of a dog

Dogs are beloved family members to nearly half (45.3%) of South Carolinians, providing companionship, love, and loyalty. However, every year, around 4.5 million people are bitten by a dog, highlighting that even the most docile and domesticated dog can attack.

It’s important to understand warning signs that a dog may bite so that you can take appropriate action to protect yourself and your family, especially around unfamiliar or aggressive dogs. Read on to learn how to identify warning signs before a dog bites and who may be liable for your injuries.

Contact Joye Law Firm for a free consultation to explore your legal options after a dog attack.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

A dog may bite a victim for many reasons, including fear and aggression. One of the most common reasons for dog aggression is a history of abuse or neglect. The dog may lash out in fear in response to stimuli such as loud noises or strangers approaching.

Other common reasons why dogs lash out and bite include:

  • Territorial aggression: Dogs may consider a specific area their territory and bite to protect it from anything they perceive as a threat.
  • Possessiveness: Dogs may also be possessive over food, toys, or anything they wish to claim as their own. If the animal feels that its possessions could be taken away, it may bite as an act of prevention.
  • Self-defense: A dog may need to protect itself or its owner if it detects danger due to a person’s body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice.

Signs a Dog May Bite

Dogs often give warning signs that they are about to bite. If a dog is showing any of these behaviors, remove yourself from the vicinity of the animal as calmly and quickly as possible.

  • Staring: Prolonged, direct eye contact is often a sign of aggression among dogs.
  • Growling: Growling is the dog’s way of communicating that it wants to be left alone and that the person or animal approaching it should back off.
  • Showing teeth: When a dog shows its teeth, it is not a sign of playfulness but rather a sign of discomfort. It’s best to give the dog space and avoid interacting with it.
  • Fur standing up: A dog’s fur standing on edge is a way for the dog to appear larger and more intimidating, and it can also help to release pheromones to signal to other dogs in the area that the dog is feeling threatened.
  • Rigid body: A dog’s body becoming rigid is a sign of tension, alertness, or aggression. It signals that the dog is preparing to defend itself.

How to Avoid a Dog Bite

While it may be impossible to prevent a dog from biting, there are a few things that can lessen your chances. If a dog appears aggressive, you should go out of your way to avoid doing things that might cause it to attack. Some tips to avoid a dog bite include:

  • Respect the dog’s personal space: Always ask the owner’s permission before approaching a dog and give it space to retreat if it wants to.
  • Avoid direct eye contact: Direct eye contact can be seen as a threat by a dog, so try to avoid looking an unknown dog in the eye.
  • Do not run or scream: Running or screaming can trigger a dog’s predatory instincts and lead to an attack.
  • Avoid quick movements: Sudden movements can also trigger a dog’s predatory instincts and lead to an attack.
  • Stand still: If a dog approaches you, remain still and let the dog sniff you before attempting to pet it.
  • Remain calm and assertive: Speak in a calm and assertive tone to the dog, and avoid getting nervous or fearful.
  • Educate yourself: Learn about dog breeds, their behavior, and how to interact with them safely.

Tips for Children

Children are one of the most vulnerable to dog bites, with over half of all dog bite attacks occurring to children, the majority of whom are between 5 and 9 years old. You can reduce the risk of your child sustaining a dog bite by teaching him or her the following rules when around dogs:

  • Never approach a dog without the owner’s permission
  • Do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, eating, or sleeping
  • Do not pull a dog’s tail or ears or try to ride it
  • Do not run or scream around dogs
  • Do not hug dogs tightly
  • Do not try to take a toy or food away from a dog

Dog Bite Laws in South Carolina

In South Carolina, dog owners are liable for any injuries caused by their dogs, regardless of whether the dog has a history of aggressive behavior. This law is known as strict liability, and it holds owners accountable for damages their dog causes to another person or piece of property.

However, there are some exceptions to this law. For example, if the victim was trespassing on the dog owner’s property or was teasing or provoking the dog, the owner may not be held liable for the injuries.

The dog owner’s homeowners’ insurance policy will typically cover the cost of the victim’s injuries and losses after a dog attack, so you should pursue the compensation you will need without the fear of having to take money from a friend or family member’s pocket. A South Carolina dog bite lawyer can help you navigate the legal process and ensure you receive the compensation you deserve under the law.

Contact a Personal Injury Attorney at Joye Law Firm Today

At Joye Law Firm, we understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll a dog bite can take. We are committed to helping our clients, especially kids, receive the compensation they deserve for their injuries and losses.

Our experienced personal injury attorneys have a deep understanding of South Carolina’s dog bite laws and will work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Whether it’s through negotiating a settlement or taking your case to trial, we will fight for your rights every step of the way.

Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and get started on your dog bite claim.

About the Author

Mark Joye is the Head of the Litigation Department at the Joye Law Firm. A Board-Certified Trial Advocate with nearly 30 years of litigation experience, he currently serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and is a past president of the South Carolina Association for Justice. In a recent trial, Joye headed a trial team that secured $17 million for a family killed in a tractor-trailer accident.

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