Most people are willing to assume a certain degree of risk to help someone in distress. However, when the distressed individual is a dog, good Samaritans often fail to understand that the basics of canine and human psychology are significantly different. Whereas a human understands the desire to help, a dog may associate the human contact with the pain and strike out in distress.
Consider a case in New York, where the dog bite laws are not as strict as those in Arizona. In 2009, a woman was severely injured when she attempted to free a dog’s paws from a wire mesh fence. Her reward for her well-intentioned actions included 30 stitches, permanent facial scarring and a dog owner who blamed her for meddling in a perilous situation. In New York, the law often requires evidence that a dog is dangerous prior to permitting legal action against the owner, but a Manhattan Supreme Court justice found enough evidence to permit this case to go to court.
Here in Arizona, the strict liability laws virtually guarantee the legal rights of dog bite victims. But sometimes it is better to avoid putting yourself at risk. It can be tempting to try to help a dog in distress, but there are ways to help without jeopardizing your own health and safety, such as the following:
- Recognize that any dog in distress is likely to strike out in fear or pain.
- Approach the dog owner, rather than the dog, to determine if you can provide any assistance while remaining safe.
- Call police or animal control to bring in rescue personnel who know how to help.
If you must intervene and end up suffering a dog attack — whether in a park or even in the home of a friend — your first responsibility is to seek medical attention and report the incident to authorities. You should also consult a personal injury attorney with experience handling cases that involve Arizona dog bite law to learn about your legal options.