My dog bit someone

Most owners are convinced that their dog is the nicest of companions and would never hurt a fly, until one day the unthinkable happens: the animal has bitten someone.

In this case, we then come to imagine the worst: Will my dog be euthanized? Will the victim file a complaint? How can I protect my beloved pet? Does this one really represent a threat?

In fact, a dog that has bitten can indeed be considered as a dangerous animal, and it is up to the owner to prove the contrary by taking a series of steps.

By taking these steps properly, you will be able to demonstrate, if necessary, that the incident is not indicative of the animal's usual behavior and that it does not represent a threat to the public.


Dogs that bite, what does the law say?

The law is very clear on biting animals: they must be submitted to a veterinary control to verify that they do not present any sanitary risks and must be declared to the town hall.

The law also stipulates that masters are responsible for accidents caused by their animals, except in certain specific cases.

The owner's liability may be questioned if the victim was bitten due to a lack of caution, for example, by not following basic common sense safety instructions that surround any relationship between humans and animals (victim's fault).

It is also possible that the handler will not be held responsible if the bite occurs as a result of a chain of events that are neither his nor the animal's fault (exceptional circumstances, i.e. it is "nobody's fault").

Finally, it is possible that the dog and the handler are not held responsible for the incident if a third party is involved in it and caused the bite in one way or another (third party fault).

Beyond the issue of responsibility, the law provides for strict procedures to be followed in the event of a bite, which the owner must comply with, regardless of whether or not he or she is responsible.

This set of procedures was established to prevent health risks and to ensure the safety of the population by evaluating the level of danger of the animal.





Dog that has bitten: what to do

Step 1: Help the Bite Victim
The first and most important thing to do is to help the person who has been bitten by your dog. This person should be taken care of by the fire department, paramedics, or a simple general practitioner depending on the severity of the injuries. Do not neglect this step, even if you consider that the incident happened because of the victim's fault and that you are angry at him for having put your dog in this situation.

Step 2: Take your dog to a veterinarian
The owner of a dog that has been bitten must go to a licensed veterinarian who will monitor the dog for 15 days. During this surveillance period, the dog can remain in the owner's home, but the owner will have to visit the veterinarian three times (on the day of the bite, 7 days later, and 14 days after the bite), so that the dog's health can be monitored by the health professional.

In all transparency, you should know that it is the symptoms of rabies that will be closely monitored by the veterinarian during this period, who must be certain that the animal is completely free of rabies. As a reminder, rabies is a zoonosis, a disease transmitted to humans mainly by carnivores, which is still incurable today, hence the sanitary precautions provided for by the law. During this period of sanitary surveillance, the animal should not be vaccinated against rabies and should not be euthanized, unless it represents an immediate and uncontrollable danger.

Step 3: Report the incident to the city hall
Once this is done, the owner must declare the dog bite to the town hall of his municipality, after which the mayor can request a behavioral evaluation of the animal. Please note: the management of wild and domestic animals in a municipality is always the responsibility of the mayor or, failing that, the prefect.

Therefore, these elected officials have full latitude to require a behavioral assessment and/or to order the owner to undergo training and obtain a certificate of aptitude, even though this type of certificate is usually reserved for owners of categorized dogs. Mayors and prefects may also issue bylaws to regulate the keeping of dogs in their communities, whether or not they are categorized (e.g., requiring dogs to be kept on a leash in certain areas).

Step 4: Have the dog's behaviour assessed
If the authorities (in case of a complaint from the victim) or the mayor (following the declaration of the bite) decide to do so, the animal will have to undergo a behavioral evaluation which will define its degree of dangerousness. Depending on the results of this evaluation (level 1, 2, 3 or 4), the owner of the animal may be obliged to take a certificate of aptitude to learn how to control, educate and care for his dog.

If the animal is judged dangerous, it can be confiscated and entrusted to a master or to an association judged more suitable to control and care for it. Finally, if it represents an immediate danger, it can be euthanized on the advice of an approved veterinarian.

Step 5: Contact your liability insurance
In the event of any kind of accident, it is in your best interest to notify your liability insurance company so that they can cover the costs of your dog's behavior. In fact, it is extremely important that your dog was declared to your liability insurance at the time of his adoption.

You should know that liability insurance is required to cover you in the event of damage caused by your pet to others or their property. However, some insurances may refuse to insure category 1 and 2 dogs, considered potentially dangerous. However, since these dogs must be legally insured, it is up to you to find an insurance company that accepts to cover your categorized dog as soon as it is adopted.


My dog has bitten, what is the risk?

The biggest fear of owners is often that their dog will be euthanized or confiscated in case of an accident. In most cases, it is the behavioral evaluation that will decide the future of your dog and it will only risk euthanasia if it is defined as a dog that presents a danger to the public.

Also, if your pet has bitten someone and caused a minor injury under specific circumstances (i.e. he was frightened, the victim stepped on his paw, etc.), he is unlikely to be euthanized. In any case, it is not up to the victim of the bite, whether he or she files a complaint or not, to decide on euthanasia: only the competent authorities can decide after a behavioral assessment.

It should also be noted that in some cases, the authorities may decide to euthanize the animal immediately. This is sometimes the case if the dog is dangerous and uncontrollable while the rescue team is intervening to help the victim, or if your pet has shown aggression while wandering.

In addition, mayors and prefects have a great deal of latitude in the case of a bite, so their personal judgment may come into play.




How to punish and educate a dog that bites?

If your dog has bitten someone, it is necessary to take the accident very seriously and not make excuses for your pet in bad faith. Be objective and question yourself, especially regarding your training practices and the attitude you adopt with your pet.

Ask yourself what caused this unacceptable behavior: did your dog defend its territory? Did he want to stop someone from taking his toy? Did he get carried away by his predatory instincts and chase someone who was passing by?

Never punish a dog for biting, especially if you don't know the reason for the behavior. If your dog can't stand sharing his toys, food, basket or territory, this is a natural behavior called "resource guarding".

As long as your dog usually protects its resources without bothering anyone, and the bite occurred after the victim insisted on taking something from it despite its warnings, I advise you to ignore it. Respect this natural behavior, remember to ask people who come into contact with your dog to do the same, and don't let children play alone with your dog.

If your dog has bitten someone who has come into your home and is considered an intruder, he has a strong guarding instinct. Again, don't punish him, but never encourage his guarding behaviour and work on his socialization. Don't hesitate to ask for the help of a dog trainer to do this.

To prevent future incidents, remember to warn your guests of the presence of a guard dog - with a sign on your door, for example - and never leave the dog alone with your guests. If your dog has been chasing and attacking people for no apparent reason, it probably has a highly developed predatory instinct, or a mental imbalance due to trauma or a lifestyle that is not suited to its needs.

This type of behavior being particularly dangerous - even if it happened only once - I advise you to contact a behaviorist quickly to understand the origin of the problem and to avoid its repetition. In any case, it is necessary to understand what caused your dog to bite and to take all the necessary measures to prevent it from happening again.

Be rigorous and avoid thinking like this: "My dog never bites, it's because we asked for it". If it is true that a dog never bites without a reason, it is not for that reason that one should not take the trouble to put the finger on the exact problem so that it does not happen again, either by educating the animal or by taking better adapted safety measures.



My dog has bitten, is it at risk of being euthanized?
A dog that bites can be euthanized if it represents a real danger to the population, after a veterinarian's opinion. It is not up to you or the victim to decide: the competent authorities will do it after a behavioral evaluation. If your dog is of a balanced nature and has bitten because he was annoyed, surprised or frightened, he is unlikely to be euthanized.

My dog bit me, will I be charged?
The victim of a bite from your dog can file a complaint against you in the case of a characterized aggression or if the accident is due to negligence on your part. This can be the case, for example, if you did not respect the regulations governing the possession of a category 1 and 2 dog, or if your animal was roaming (out of your supervision) because you did not take the necessary measures to prevent it from running away. Whether or not the victim files a complaint, you will still be responsible for paying for any medical expenses that may be required, as well as any damages.

What to do when you have a dog biter ?
Having a dog that bites should never be taken lightly, as this type of behavior can be the cause of more or less serious accidents in your home or against strangers. The best solution is to contact a behaviorist who will help you understand your dog's attitude and how to remedy it.

Is a dog that has bitten once dangerous?
A dog that has bitten is not necessarily a dangerous dog and will not necessarily be considered as such by the authorities. The behavioral evaluation of the animal, which may be required by the mayor or the prefect, will decide on the question by assigning a level of dangerousness to your dog. Most of the time, a dog bites because it has a good reason to do so: fear, annoyance or a situation where it feels "stuck" and cannot escape other than by attacking.


In conclusion

A dog that has bitten a person (his owner or someone else) must not be cleared of his actions, which is what many owners tend to do, as they believe that their faithful companion only bites if he has been provoked.

To avoid having more problems than your dog has already caused by attacking - rightly or wrongly - a person, it is necessary to scrupulously follow the steps imposed by the French law.