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Preventing dog bites and what to do when prevention fails

Every year in Georgia and across the U.S., over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs. This results in some $600 million in medical claims. Yet most dog bites can be prevented if people understand that dogs are liable to attack when they are sick, they get overexcited during play, they are startled or the safety of their owner, food, toy or territory appears to be threatened.

Since children comprise most of the victims in dog bite cases, parents should consider the following tips. They should teach their children not to interact with dogs that are strangers. They should never reach out to a dog, especially if it is through a fence, but rather let the dog approach them. They must not bother dogs that are hiding, sleeping, eating or playing with a toy.

As for dog owners, they can reduce the risk for bites by socializing their dog from an early age, using a leash in public and ensuring that their dog gets regular exercise. They should stay current on the dog's rabies vaccinations.

When prevention fails, victims will want to wash the wound with soap and water and ask their physician if any shots or antibiotics are required. They should take down the owner's contact information and request rabies vaccination records.

If a dog bite or other preventable accident occurs on another's property and through the owner's negligence, victims may file a premises liability claim. In doing so, they might be covered for medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and other applicable losses. It may be a good idea to hire a lawyer, who might bring in investigators and medical experts to obtain proof of negligence before negotiating for a settlement.

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