Dog Safety & Dealing with Dog Bites 

When we see a dog, something inside us tells us to pet it immediately. But as personal injury lawyers in Tampa, we must caution against this and remind you that it’s not always a good idea.  

Before coming in contact with a dog that’s not yours, we encourage you to follow these steps to protect yourself from a potential dog bite.  

6 Dog Safety Tips to Protect Yourself from Dog Bites 

Always Ask Permission First 

Before petting someone’s dog, always ask permission to pet them first. Not only is it polite, but the owner can warn you if their dog’s not friendly.  

Don’t Make Assumptions Based on Breeds 

You might throw caution to the wind when you see a Golden Retriever or other breeds commonly considered docile or steer clear of other breeds labeled “aggressive.” 

In both instances, the dog’s behavior is based on its environment and upbringing. 

Remember, a wagging tail doesn’t always mean the dog is friendly.  

We encourage you to refer to our first tip before engaging with a dog that’s not yours. 

Keep Your Cool 

If you ever find yourself in a situation where an unfamiliar dog approaches you, stay calm. 

Be as still and quiet as possible so you don’t scare the dog. Let them see and sniff you before petting them.  

And, when first petting them, never reach over the top of their head. Doing so can intimidate them and cause them to act out. Instead, offer a gentle pet to their shoulder, neck, or chest.  

Respect Their Space 

It’s common for dogs to be territorial, especially of their owners. Even the friendliest dog can be provoked if it feels its personal space is being invaded. Allow the dog to approach you at its own pace.  

Watch Your Kids 

Teaching your kids these dog safety tips is crucial for their protection. While education is vital, you still need to watch your kids closely around dogs, especially ones they don’t know.  

Kids should avoid dogs that are sleeping, eating, or chewing on a toy. They should never approach a dog that’s already barking or growling.  

As we explained before, if a dog ever approaches them, encourage your kids to be calm, avoid eye contact, and never run.  

Protect Yourself 

In the worst-case scenario, if a dog attacks you, place whatever you have between yourself and the dog. This could be a purse or a coat—anything to create space. If you don’t have anything on you, curl up, tuck your head in, and use your arms to cover your ears and neck.  

These tips are essential to learn and use when encountering a dog you don’t know and, to dogs you’re familiar with as well.  

Bitten By a Dog? 

Now, what happens if you’ve been bitten by a dog? 

The first step is to remove yourself from the dog’s environment.  

If you know the owner, calmly discuss the events so you can adequately document them. If you don’t know the owner personally, exchange contact information and do the same if there are witnesses.  

Next, seek medical treatment. 

Dog bites can cause infections, so it’s best to see a professional to properly clean and care for the injury.  

But if you can’t get to the doctor immediately, clean the wound by applying pressure with a clean towel, gently washing the area with soap and water, and using a sterile bandage.  

Just like with other personal injury cases, take photos and videos of your injuries and jot down notes about the events from your perspective while they’re fresh in your mind.  

Florida Dog Bite Laws 

Under Florida dog bite law, the dog owner is strictly liable (legally responsible) for any injuries or damages caused by their dogs, especially in incidents involving bites.  

This liability extends to instances when a dog bites someone in public and on the owner’s property, given that the victim is lawfully present.  

Florida law explicitly addresses dog bites and not other forms of canine aggression.  

It’s important to note that dog owners are also responsible for any harm their dog inflicts on another animal. 

The liability remains even if there’s no prior behavior or history of aggression from the dog. 

This means the owner is responsible, regardless of whether they are unaware of their dog’s potential for harm.  

But, as is expected, there are exceptions.  

If a sign such as “Beware of Dog” is prominently displayed on a person’s property, it can, in some circumstances, be exempt from liability.  

However, the exemption doesn’t apply if the victim is under six years old. 

Next Steps 

If a dog has bitten you or a loved one, you must seek the support of a dog bite lawyer immediately. 

Contact us today if you have questions and to schedule your free case evaluation.