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Parents may be unaware of dog bite dangers

New Jersey pet owners might be surprised to learn that more than 50,000 children under the age of 7 were injured by dog bites in 2014. Young children are more likely to suffer bites to the neck and head because they stand at about the height of a typical dog.

Since children are small and cannot adequately defend themselves, dog bites present the potential of serious injury. Bites may leave scars that require plastic surgery or even result in death. More common are bites that do not cause serious physical injury but leave the child traumatized or fearful in the presence of dogs.

Nearly half of U.S. households have a dog, making the incidence of canine bites rare from a statistical perspective. Most dog-owning families can't imagine their family dog being aggressive to any child, much less to their own children. This may lead to an underestimation of risk. A study published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior revealed that pet owners frequently believe in a more hands-off, laid-back approach than animal experts advocate.

A doctor with Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center said pet owners sometimes forget that the family pet is still an animal, and that it poses a bite risk. Dogs certainly vary widely in terms of behavior and disposition, but experts stress that any dog is capable of biting. Individuals who have suffered injury due to dog bites may be entitled to compensation for pain and suffering, medical expenses or other damages. An attorney with experience in personal injury law may be able to help by gathering evidence to build a case. A lawyer could file a lawsuit in civil court or negotiate a settlement with at-fault parties and their insurers.

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