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Dog bites affect millions, but they are preventable

You were riding your bicycle when it happened; the so-called friendly neighborhood dog jumped out of its yard toward your bicycle. It barred its teeth, and you soon found yourself fighting it off.

It's certainly not a secret that some animals chase or dislike moving objects, but that's not your problem. It's the owner's responsibility to make sure his pet doesn't attack someone. During the incident, you suffered bites to your legs, and you had to call an ambulance for emergency care. Now, you face high medical bills and need to know what steps to take next.

Fortunately, owners are responsible for injuries their pets cause. In fact, injuries like these occur so often that insurers pay $570 million per year for dog bite incidents alone. With around 4.5 million people suffering dog bites yearly, it's important for owners to take the time to train and control their pets.

How can owners protect themselves and others? First, they can keep their pets on leashes or contained behind fencing. It's the owner's responsibility to separate the animal from those it could harm.

Second, if your dog does bite someone, it's important to notify the insurance carrier and to talk to police. Victims, and the police, need to know that a dog is healthy. As long as an owner is there, he can give vaccination records and other information to the authorities. This helps prevent the victim from needing things like rabies shots.

Usually, a person's homeowner's policy covers the injuries someone suffers from a dog bite, but these policies might be breed specific. If owners do not have a dog covered by a policy, then you, as a victim, may need to speak to your attorney about filing a claim through the courts.

Source: Fox 11, "Insurers pay out $570 million a year for dog bites. How to protect yourself & your money," Michael Gorseg, April 11, 2017

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