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Watch out for loose dogs at the park and in the city this spring

As the weather warms up, it's only natural to go outside to have fun. You and your family may go for walks around the neighborhood or head to a park to burn off some energy and get some fresh air. Exercise and being outdoors are great for your health, but there's also risk involved.

Just like people, dogs get spring fever, too. Chances are good that the local sidewalks and parks will be full of canines, most of whom are looking to catch a stick or sniff some new smells. It only takes one angry, aggressive or poorly trained animal, however, to severely hurt and traumatize you or another member of your family. Even those who behave properly around dogs can wind up hurt. When that happens, you need to stand up for your rights.

Dog owners have a responsibility to the public

New Jersey law states that owners must accept responsibility for their animals. Any time a dog bites a human, its owner assumes financial and legal responsibility for what happens to the victim. So long as the person bitten was legally in a public space or on private property, the owner of the dog involved is liable for any injury that results from the attack.

Whether a dog has been aggressive in the past has no bearing on that responsibility. New Jersey laws do not require dog bite victims to prove the dog was aggressive or had a history of violence. Victims only have to prove that the dog did attack and bite someone, causing injury and damages.

Dog bites can cause extreme medical expenses

Depending on the location and the severity of the dog bite, the victim could require a host of medical interventions. Emergency transportation, trauma care, stitches, bone setting and casts, surgery and medication to avoid infection can all be quite expensive.

Injuries to the hands, wrists and ankles may require surgery to prevent permanent damage. Bites to the face, neck or hands may require plastic surgery for a full recovery. Some people also end up traumatized by such an attack, requiring extensive therapy or counseling. Whether the diagnosis is a fear of public spaces, a fear of dogs or post traumatic stress, the costs of addressing those issues can add up over time.

Hold dog owners responsible for their animals

Dogs can be wonderful companions, sources of emotional support and even disability aides for those with many different conditions. They can also be a real risk to humans they encounter.

If you or someone in your family suffers an injury due to a dog bite attack, you have the right to pursue compensation from the owner or their insurance company.

You have up to two years from the date of the attack to file a lawsuit. Acting sooner is always in your best interests.

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