Each year, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) receives over 300 reports of dog bite occurrences in Boston. Boston dog bite lawyers handle many cases where bites have resulted in injury. Many of the victims reported are children who are bitten by a non-aggressive dog.
The BPHC also reported that children aged five to nine are most likely to experience a dog bite, often occurring in their home by a familiar dog. The second most commonly bitten group is senior citizens. Part of these numbers could be based on the assumption that many adults do not seek medical treatment when they are bitten by a dog, especially a family pet.
Boston Laws Regarding Dogs
There are several regulations that Massachusetts requires dog owners to adhere to. Some of the laws are proper dog owner etiquette. In contrast, others help reduce the risk of injuries associated with dog bites.
- Dog Licensing – The state of Massachusetts requires that all dogs over six months of age be licensed by their owner every year. When obtaining a license, you must produce proof of the dog’s current and up-to-date vaccinations. Anyone who does not license their dog could be subject to fines.
- Leash Laws in MA – The state also requires that responsible dog owners follow a set of leash laws they have adopted. These laws include:
- All dogs must be on a leash when off of the dog owner’s property.
- When a dog is outside, they must be under control and remain within your yard. Dogs are not permitted to roam neighborhoods, get into the trash, or bother other citizens in any way.
- Dog owners must respect all rules and regulations when taking their dog to a park.
- Dog Waste Disposal – The state requires that dog owners clean up after their dogs. This law includes areas such as streets, sidewalks, parks, and neighborhood yards. The dog owner must be prepared to clean up after their dog and dispose of waste in a trashcan or toilet.
- Spay and Neuter – Although not required by law, the state strongly recommends that dog owners have their pets spayed or neutered. Pets that have been spayed or neutered are more affectionate and less likely to roam free. The state will even provide you with a discount on your license if the animal is fixed.
The Types of Dog Bite Escalation
Dog behavioralists have spent a lot of time studying the demeanor and psychology of dogs. They often use a scale to assess the level of a dog’s bite. The scale begins with Level 1 and finishes with Level 6.
Level 1 – A level 1 bite isn’t much of a bite at all. The dog exhibits aggressive behavior, but there is no teeth-to-skin contact. The end goal for the dog is to scare the other animal or person away.
Level 2 – In a level 2 bite, there is teeth-to-skin contact, but the skin is not broken. The dog increases its aggressive behavior to warn that it does not want the animal or person there.
Level 3 – Level 3 bites result in one to four tooth puncture points. The punctures are no deeper than half the length of the canine tooth.
Level 4 – Level 4 bites consist of one to four tooth punctures with one of the puncture points deeper than half the canine tooth. Bruising may also occur from the dog whipping its head back and forth.
Level 5 – Multiple puncture points and possibly multiple attacks by the dog. Intervention may not be useful at this point, and professionals may recommend euthanizing the dog.
Level 6 – The dog’s attack results in the death of the animal or human targeted.
When severe injuries occur, Boston dog bite lawyers can help victims receive compensation due to medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, and more.
Preventing Dog Bites
Some actions can be taken to protect yourself from being bitten by a dog. Learning the basics can help you prevent potentially debilitating injuries.
The steps you can take to help protect yourself or reduce injury include:
- Remain calm and stay still when approached by an unfamiliar dog
- Do not look the dog directly in the eyes
- Allow the dog to pass you
- If the dog does knock you to the ground, curl yourself in a ball with your head tucked and your hands over your ears and neck
- Immediately call to report stray dogs
Things you should not do when preventing dog bites:
- Approach an unfamiliar dog or a dog that is acting strangely
- Make loud noises or panic
- Disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for a litter
- Pet a dog without asking owner consent
- Pet a dog without allowing it to use its nose to smell you
- Encourage aggressive play
- Let small children play with a dog unsupervised
MGL c.140, § 155: Liability of Dog Owners
Some states have had “one bite rules” in the past on dogs. This rule meant that dogs had “one bite” dismissed before the owner would be found automatically liable. Many states have changed to strict liability, like Massachusetts.
According to Massachusetts legislation (MGL c.140, § 155), a dog’s owner is liable for a dog bite. If the owner of the dog in question is a minor, then the parents or legal guardian of that minor are responsible for all damages caused by the dog’s bite.
There is a caveat to this rule if the person bit by the dog was trespassing or taunting the dog; the owner is no longer automatically liable.
If the victim is under seven years old, it is assumed that they did not trespass, nor did they taunt or abuse the dog. It would then be up to the dog owner and their legal counsel to produce the burden of proof.
Boston Dog Bite Lawyers to Handle Your Case
If you or a loved one have been the victim of a dog bite injury in Boston, our legal staff is ready to assist you. TorkLaw has been handling dog bite cases across the country for many years and understand the toll it can take on a victim and their family. You may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
We urge you to reach out today by calling our toll free number at 888.845.9696 for your free dog bite injury case consultation.