The 'first bite free' law

archimedesJune 15, 2007

There was a story here a few days ago about a woman who suffered a dog bite to the face. She was upset because the dog was returned to the owner and not charged with anything because of the Âfirst bite free law.

There's a link to the story. I hope it works because I'm new to this link stuff.

As the story goes, she went across the street to her neighbors for some reason and saw his dog and asked to pet him. The owner said OK.

The dog was in the back of his pick-up and when she went to pet him, thatÂs when the dog bit her on the face.

She doesnÂt like the fact that the owner doesnÂt have to pay because of the law and sheÂs got a scar for life. IÂm not sure if she just wants to bring this to peoples attention or if she wants the law removed to protect people from going through what she did.

IÂm with the owner. ItÂs not his or the dogs fault, he was just acting like a dog. When she reached up, the dog must of not like the fact that she was invading his personal space and reacted like a dog would. A quick snap to let you know that you are doing something he doesnÂt appreciate.

The law I think is fair. ThereÂs probably a case now and again in which the animal does attacks just because it feels like it or itÂs the owners fault and gets the first bite free card. But I would like to think thatÂs the exception and not the rule.

People have to remember that animals are animals and you canÂt always predict, just like people, how they are going to react in every situation. DoesnÂt anyone use common sense any more?

---- Archie

Here is a link that might be useful: news video of story

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Interesting story! The first bite free makes perfect sense to me. How else are you, as the owner, supposed to learn that your dog may potentially bite?

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 4:06AM
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Read my post in
this thread

Dog owners should understand that ALL dogs can bite and may potentially bite and will probably bite another dog or human in their lifetime.

What if this "first bite" is to a child's face or head? What if it causes irreparable damage to another human being?

I love dogs. But dogs are not "harmless" creatures. Any of them will bite given a certain random circumstance.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 5:39PM
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If you had the dog as a puppy, then you have trained it. If you have adopted from the pound, then you watch it and learn from its actions. If when children come around and it growls or shies away, then common sense tells you that you might want to keep children away from them.

Dogs don't have hands or voices so Kirby the dog can't say, "Excuse me, don't do that. You're in my personal space." The only way dogs do this is to snarl and snap to get their point across. Which is what Kirby did and I think the owner Larry believes too.

Another thing is that human skin ain't as tough as other animals. So what would scratch an animal will tear our skin.

This law only works once. What I don't like is that Michelle says, "I can't even imagine having the heart to bring the dog home that would do that to a person," which sounds like to me she thinks that Kirby is a vicious dog and needs to be removed from the neighborhood. Even the neighbors are worried he'll do it again even though there's no other reports of Kirby ever bitting or being vicious.

You would think if Kirby was vicious it would of been a problem before and the neighbors would of had concerns about Kirby before this too.

A little common sense goes a long way.

- - - Archie

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 5:44PM
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Archie, I agree that a little common sense goes a long way and that dogs can be unpredictable. However, I feel we need to use common sense dealing with these situations. This dog bit for no apparent reason. There was not an obvious threat to him. His owner was close by, the woman was not yelling, waving her arms frantically or threatening to hit the dog. Clearly the dog is not of sound temperament. The owner should be responsible for all medical bills. Obviously this owner didn't know his dog very well...or he would NOT have allowed the woman to pet Kirby...he would have known he might bite her!

First, it is absolutely true that any dog can bite; no matter how well trained. You are right; dogs can be unpredictable. If a dog bites a human for any reason, then it should be removed from the home and evaluated. I have professionally trained dogs for years and have done such evaluations. It amazes me how many people use human emotions and logic when attempting to explain canine behavior. Not very many people really, seriously train a dog so that they are controlled enough to be off lead.

Yes, the neighbors should be worried. The dog bit a woman in the face. Unprovoked. Owner nearby. I don't consider reaching to pet a dog a threat. No dog should, that's not normal. It sounds like this dog has a fear biting issue or is extremely dominant. Who is going to evaluate the dog and explain the ramifications to the owner? I would guess it will happen again. Maybe a small child next time.

    Bookmark   June 15, 2007 at 11:07PM
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Also, this law won't protect you from being sued by the bite victim.

    Bookmark   June 16, 2007 at 12:51AM
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Then that's the key. The animal control code isn't something with a big penalty for violating anyway. Maybe up to $1000 or something like that. So that would barely cover the ambulance ride to the hospital.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 11:59AM
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I think a first bite law should mean that a dog isn't automatically euthanized and that the owner isn't charged with harboring a dangerous animal after the first bite. However, I don't think there should ever be a law that prevented a victim from collecting damages for their injuries first time or not, and this seems to be what they're saying. Owners are resposible for their animals, no matter what the circumstances, IMO.

Also, with the viciousness of this particular attack I would have never brought that dog home, but would have voluntarily euthanized him.

I am confused about this story, though. A quick search turned up several Wisconsin lawyer's sites that state that Wisconsin does not have a first bite free law and county code couldn't trump state law. Here's an example:

Here is a link that might be useful: Wisconsin dog law

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 1:53PM
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Sorry IÂve havenÂt gotten back to this sooner. I just lost a pet unexpectedly.

A lot of people when they hear that a dog has bitten a person call it a vicious dog and that it will bite again.

Does anyone really want to know what are all the facts are for that incidence? Apparently itÂs easier to jump to conclusions and judge than is to learn.

Some of the questions I would ask would be: What type of owner is the person? Is the victim a stranger to the dog? Did they pet a cat five minutes ago? Did the person move to fast towards the dog for the dogs comfort? Was there a child next to the person?

Some of those question youÂre might be wondering why ask. Like petting a cat. Simple. Did you think that a dog might not like cats and that have the sent of a cat on you would trigger a response? They might not like children either.

The dog was in the back of a pick-up. I donÂt know if dogs have a thing about dominance with the height of your eyes. The higher the eye level the more dominate you are and being in the pick-up his eyes were higher than hers. IÂve never owned a dog with this problem. Maybe I was just lucky I raised and taught them good without knowing it.

Yes, IÂve had a dog snap at my face. I too asked the owner who was walking a Bassett if I could pet him. He said it was OK. I happened to noticed that as I started to bend down that the owner took up the slack on the leash. I didnÂt feel comfortable about that and started to move back and thatÂs when the dog snapped at my face. I saw this show with the worldÂs leading dog behaviorist say that owners send a signal to the dog by putting tension on the leash before the bad behavior happens. So are some of these incidences caused by owners unknowingly sending signals?

- - - Archie

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 2:36PM
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I just had to euthanize my 15 year old watchdog a couple years ago--stroke. He was licensed, had his shots yearly, and was contained in a 42" high chain link fence.

Neighborhood kids---teens---liked to tease Jake. I trained him to ignore their spoken taunts, but the physical teasing was too much. Four different teens found out the hard way Jake did not tolerate poking through the fence or kids jumping the fence and running across the yard.

Police were called all four times. I had witnesses come forward to tell the police each time about the real events---not the kids falsified accounts.

I finally had to keep the dog inside when I was not home---it was better for the dog.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2007 at 10:32PM
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Handymac, you're the reason I started this thread. I was hoping someone like you would respond and show that there are times in which the fault is human and not animal.

If I were the police I would of talked to the kids and made it clear that they not to trespass anymore and definitely to leave Jake alone. I was taught if it wasn't your property stay off it and if you teased an animal and got hurt then it was your own fault. But hey, that's just me.

Thank you for being one in a million and here's to Jake for being a good dog.
- - - Archie

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 12:37AM
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I am fortunate to live in a small community where the police can do what is necessary in most cases. They did contact the kids parents in all cases. One parent insisted on filing charges---her 'darling boy' would not do such a bad thing. (The officer actually rolled his eyes at me as she said that---I know he has dealt with her 'darling boy' on several occasions)

When she was informed there was no legal way for Jake to be impounded---or worse, as she wanted him destroyed as a dangerous animal------she tried to sue the city.

I told the 'darling boy' later---when no one else was around---if he ever came any where near my yard again, the dog would be the least of his worries. That was about 8 years ago---to this day he gives me a wide berth.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2007 at 2:58PM
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Where I live (Maryland) the owner of the dog is responsible for the actions of the dog, financially and otherwise.

I also have a scar on my face from a dog bite. I knew the dog very well, the dog got frightened be a loud noise while I was petting him, reared up and got my face.

There is much I agree with and much I disagree with on all previous posts.

Because the woman who got bitten had the owners permission to pet the dog, opinions can go many directions about what should or should not happen to the dog and owner. Of utmost importance, what type of personality does the dog have? Obviously, if it is a very guarding aggressive type, random approaching should not be allowed. The owner gave permission, someone got bitten, the owner did not have the dog under control, case closed.

Here in Maryland, there is a huge friction on the subject of Pitt Bulls. I have personally been the subject of an attack by a supposed "gentle" creature. I was not injured, but this is definitely not something I care to go through again.

Numerous people here have been seriously injured or killed by Pitt Bulls. One incident recently had a dog shot by a police officer because it refused to release a persons body part with it's jaws. Should this incident been considered under the "first bite law"? The bitten person had to undergo numerous operations and all of the other treatments associated with a dog bite.

As for leaving a dog outside unattended. I just should not be done unless you are in a country type setting. If you don't have the resources to properly keep a dog, you simply should not have one. A neighbor who I got into a tiff with about this very subject allowed her Lab outside unattended. From the time he was a pup, I watched him grow while walking my three large dogs past him. I gradually watched as he became more aggressive and out of control due to kids taunting him. All of this led to me and my dogs being attacked three times, and my pleas to the ditsy owner that she simply had a situation that was out of control. After the last attack, I dispatched an officer from the Humane Society to handle the problem and talk some sense into the owner. Problem solved, dog is now not left unattended and has undergone serious training corrections.

All three of my females are large and I realize that lots of people don't appreciate them. I also realize that lots of people want to meet them. If the latter is the case, I always give them a little instruction before they approach us, even though I have them on a leash.

Aggression of any kind towards me or anyone else is simply not accepted. The only time I will accept it is if there is a threat. Other than that, severe discipline is in order in a very swift fashion.

Just a thought.


    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 11:08AM
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Well put. The biggest problem with dog ownership is that people do not understand the dog they own. A great percentage of dog owners have no idea how to handle their dog properly. Pit bulls are a great example today, but twenty years ago it was Rottweilers, and before that Dobermans. In many cases, the owner not only was not handling the dog correctly, they were not handling the dog at all.

I rescued a German Shepherd/Rottweiler mix that was catalogued as totally out of control. A member of the previous owners family was at my house last Sunday---and could not believe the change in the dog after just over a year. All a matter of how to handle the dog---and I'm not a pro trainer/handler---nor did I use the services of one.

Now, I wanted the dog for a watchdog---and he does that well---but I do have friends visit, on occasion---and he has to behave around people. I do not allow just anyone to pet him. However, when I say you can, I am positive the situation is correct for that to happen safely. Conditions are different---something many owners do not realize. Max on a leash on the sidewalk is a totally different dog than Max loose in the yard----and different still when Max is in the house. I am constantly reading Max's mood when other folks are around---especially new folks. Why? He is a mixture of aggressive breeds---breeds that have a wide range of breeders---some of whom breed more aggression than others. I have no idea of his lineage---but I have enough experience to see the latent aggression in him. He is not a pet, he is a dog. He is a member of the family, but he is a dog member----and gets treated as such. My 2 year old granddaughter can order him to go lay down and he knows he must obey.

So, I had a really good idea of what to expect before bringing him home. Oh, yeah, I forgot. I had to show him I was the boss in order to do that. I did that with not even touching him---or saying a word. For the next three weeks, we had sessions where he was put in a position I knew he would protest---by growling and posturing. I simply did the same---showing him---in his version of communication---that I am pack leader and he must obey. All without touching him .

Dogs have to be treated as dogs. And not abused.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 1:39PM
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In my opinion, dog owners are always responsible for their dogs -- even if that means keeping them away from the stupid people who taunt and tease to get a reaction. Leaving a dog in a yard unattended for hours where they can be subjected to that type of abuse is an example of irresponsible dog ownership. As for instances when dogs can run loose outside, I would have to disagree about dogs in a country setting. Having grown up in a country setting, too many dogs are allowed to run free because their owner has a few acres. Sorry. That dog rarely knows its boundaries. Once it has found other dogs with no boundaries, you now have a dog pack that is virtually uncontrollable.

    Bookmark   June 22, 2007 at 6:32PM
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I was checking online for this exact scenario, well close to it anyways.

I have a female rottweiler that will be 3 years old in a month. I have had her since she was 5 weeks old and she is a great dog. Loves kids to death and would lay down her life to protect any child. I know this cuz she has done it for a stranger when he was getting smacked by an adult at the park and she stepped in between them and protected him til the police arrived. She has been very well trained and has a great tempermant.

Now for the issue. She bit my niece on the cheek tonight, but I know it was just a snap at her to let her know to chill out cuz if she were to bite, she would've done serious damage. My niece's and sister live with me and my dog is best friends with my oldest niece. She follows her around the house, plays all day with her, sleeps with her at night and really doesn't leave her side when they are both home together.

she was just recently spayed 2 weeks ago and her belly is still a lil tender, and my niece wouldn't tell her mom if she did anything to hurt or antagonize my dog. She tends to "clam up" when she has done something she isn't supposed to, which leads me to believe that she must have done something to upset my dog.

I already know what half the people here will say and it probably has something to do with the fact that she is a rottweiler. For anyone that believes this, you are wrong. She is one of the best and well mannered dogs that i have ever had and i get that same thing from alot of people. All I am wondering is if this may have something to do with her being pushed to far by my niece. My niece is somewhat of a pain in the butt and is kinda mean to animals sometimes.

Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance.

(if this a double post, sorry. my computer said the action was cancelled so i had to redo it all)

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 2:17AM
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It's very possible that your niece suddenly leaned on or pressed on the dog's tender belly and she just reacted to the pain. However, if the child could be annoying the dog when no one's looking, the dog could be losing patience with it and her anger could escalate.

To a domesticated dog, their human family is their pack and pack rules apply. Now that she bit her and got away with it, she may consider herself to be above the child in the pack, which would mean she is perfectly within her rights (in the dog's mind) to discipline the girl when necessary.

This can be a very dangerous situation. I think it's imperative that the two not be alone without adult supervision anymore, especially given the size of the dog and the amount of damage she's capable of inflicting.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 10:47AM
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Dog owners need to be responsible for their dogs. Whether a dog has ever bitten or not is of no consequence. If you are too ignorant or inexperienced to realize that your dog might bite a person, and don't want to take responsibility when it does, I have no sympathy for you. Dogs shouldn't be automatically euthanized, necessarily, but that dog owner could have easily prevented the situation by not letting a stranger pet the dog.

No one has a right to pet your dog. If you allow it, you are 100% responsible for anything that happens.

If you aren't in a position to control everything, you are dealing with an animal and people who may do unexpected things. Don't let people pet your dog.

If you think your dog should let everyone pet them, then you better be ready to pay any medical bills (at a minimum) that result from your dog's interaction with people.

It's your dog. It's your responsibility. Who cares if someone is offended that you wouldn't let them pet Fluffy? Fluffy might bite their face off. That's a lot more expensive than explaining that you're not sure how your dog will react to a stranger. My dogs are MY DOGS. They are there for my enjoyment, not the neighborhood's. I, on the other hand, have a responsibility to prevent them from mauling people.

Sorry if I come off like a jerk in this respect. Dogs are not a right. They are a choice. If you want to have a dog, you need to prevent them from hurting other people. I am a fan of working dogs. I am a fan of Schutzhund, French Ring, and other sports that involve a dog biting people. I still hold dog owners responsible for any situation that involves their dogs' teeth on another human being.

    Bookmark   July 24, 2007 at 11:06PM
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Sheltimom --- I grew up on a dairy farm were the owners dogs were allowed to run free. They didn't, not that I know of, ever run off the farm they stayed near him. When he was in milking the dog would stay around the parlor and when it got bored, would go home. I'm quite sure when the dog got back to the house they let him back in and just didn't leave them outside. If he went out cutting the hay field, the dog stayed near him. You could just see a little dot bouncing around near the tractor. It's the owners responsibility to keep an eye on their pets even when doing other things. If you don't want to, then leave them at home.

Keeping stupid people away is a whole different problem. Responsibility for ones actions goes both ways, for the dog owner and the other person. Unfortunately even when it's the stupid persons fault the owner and the dog still get blamed.

Speshawlkay ---- If you don't allow your dog to break the house rules, then why do you allow your niece? IMO, when your niece is being bad to the dog I would stop that behavior and send the niece away from the dog. This way the niece gets the idea that you mean business and your dog sees that you are the pack leader and doesn't have to do the disciplining.

I don't care what the breed of dog is. I look at the owners manners first. If they don't have respect or manners then there's a good chance neither does the dog. Then I use common sense around the dog.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 1:21AM
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Achimedes and Deb18, I would like to thank you for some insight as to this situation. My dog is a very good dog and when i got home later that night after work, I asked my niece what she did to her. She told me she was pulling on her ears and as we all know, they are sensitive spots on dogs. She would not tell her mother why Rajah snapped at her, as my niece tends to do quite often when she does something wrong. Rajah, my dog, was punished and put in the kennel immediately after it happened. I do not smack her cuz I don't believe in treating violence with violence, and when my niece does something wrong, I do the same with her and she goes in her room for a time out. I don't leave my child or my nieces unattended with the dogs ever tho. It's not a safe practice to do. Dogs are not babysitters. Crazy enough, but some people feel that they are. I would like to thank you for your insight and advice. It was very informative and I am glad that I have found somewhere I can get advice like this from people that don't pass judgement due to the breed of dog.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2007 at 7:08PM
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You have children and a dog in the house. The dog just bit one of the children in the face. This is a no-brainer - get rid of the children or get rid of the dog. Black and white. Any other action or lack of action at this point is negligence.

Take a look at the great info on this site and learn about responsible dog ownership.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 4:35PM
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Being a responsible dog owner includes a lot of things many people do not think about.

For instance, what is the major defense reaction of a dog? Don't be too quick in answering Bite. It could be to run away, to grovel, or to posture. All of those actions with small differences can be the correct answer.

So, it depends on the situation. A dominant dog will often snap at a dog of lesser stature when the lesser dog breaks a rule. Now comes the problem. Since we cannot tell what a dog thinks, there is little way to determine if a dog considers a young child as a lesser pack member---or a dominant pack member. That has to be trained---all humans are dominant pack members.

That creates another problem. That means all humans have to act like dominant pack members---and if they do not, the dog will treat them as lesser members.

The child should never have been left alone with that dog. Because the child did not act appropriately. She broke a rule and the dog applied the only punishment it could.

I mentioned earlier in thei thread I have two aggressive breed dogs and several grandchildren. The dogs sleep with the kids, follow them everywhere, and in general do anything they can to get attention from the kids. The kids are old enough(15, 11, and 10) to know how to treat dogs. I still do not leave the kids and the dogs alone together. There are instances where the kids cannot know what to do, since they have less experience. And they tend to forget what they are doing when they are playing hard.

    Bookmark   July 26, 2007 at 6:14PM
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I don't completely agree with the "first bite free" law. I don't think that the dog should be put down automatically, because the dog bit someone. and I don't agree with the woman saying something about having the heart to bring a dog home after he did something like that. But I think that the owner needs to be responsible for the dogs actions. I feel that the owner should be responsible for the medical bills. All dogs can and will bite, if they feel the need to protect. Guard dog breeds sometimes get a bad rap because others of there breed had bitten or killed. I have herd of many cases where someone has been bitten by a Rottweiler or a pit bull or some other guard dog, and they may be more prone to bite someone as it is there nature to be a guard dog. But I had a Golden Retriever that was very docile as are many GR's but she would have protected us if she felt something or someone was going to hurt us. I don't think I would ever go up to any strangers dog to pet it. You just never know what a dog will do.

    Bookmark   August 21, 2007 at 5:29PM
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Since I have gotten all of my Rottweilers as adults/rescues, I can't bet your leg they are 100% safe in certain circumstances. I haven't seen them in every situation so I will be extra cautious.

Since I was recently bitten by the new neighbor's dog because I walked out my front door and he was in my yard, I will be as understanding as possible. I think it was as shocking to them as to me and it was an unfortunate situation all around. We worked it out calmly however, I wouldn't want to see that dog loose again. I think they rehomed the dog with a family member because of new concern for their young child.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2007 at 10:22AM
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