Treat a Dog Bite Immediately
Stand your ground
If You Are Bitten Seek Immediate Medical Treatment
I was out walking in my neighborhood when the unexpected happened. A small dog ran out of its yard and up to me. Although it was barking, I really did not expect it to bite me, but it did. The little monster nipped at my leg but did not break the skin.
At nearly the same time, a black German Shepherd ran up and leaped at me, and tried to bite my face. I didn't realize at the time, but I made contact with the dogs head and it turned away. I stepped backward to gain some distance and the dog turned back around and once again jumped for my face. I screamed and once again put my hand out to stop the dog from attacking me. But this time the dog grabbed my hand and left a deep puncture wound in the palm of my hand.
If you run, the dog will chase you.
Puncture wounds can get infected
If a Dog Attacks You Call 911 Immediately and Start First Aid
I consider myself lucky that the owners were home, and happened to be outside. They did not know that the dogs had left the yard until they heard me screaming. The owner called the dogs by name and they returned to the yard. I had been walking in the street, next to the curb when the attacks happened, and ended up in the middle of the street after the second attack.
Even though the dogs had returned to the house, I wanted to create more distance and walked to the other side of the street. I was very upset and my hand was bleeding from a deep puncture wound. The owner asked me if I wanted him to take me to the hospital. I didn't want to go anywhere with him. I had my cellphone and dialed 911. I kept my hand elevated above my heart, and blood ran down my arm. Although the wound bled quite a bit, I did not apply pressure. I was more afraid of a bacterial infection than a little blood. So, I let the wound continue to bleed in hopes that bacteria and dirt would be debrided. If this had been a gaping wound, I would have applied pressure with my other hand and elevated above my heart to slow the blood flow.
My immediate concern after the dogs were secured was cleaning out the wound. Dogs have quite a bit of bacteria in their saliva and I was worried about the wound getting infected. It took 15 minutes and three phone calls for anyone from the Harris County Sheriff's Department and an ambulance to show up. The paramedics used hydrogen peroxide to clean the wound and also cleaned the blood from my arm. The police took a report about the dog attack, and the dog owners were cited for having an 'Unrestrained Animal'. The paramedics offered to take me to the hospital, but I did not have my ID or a credit card with me, so I declined.
Get First Aid Treatment for the Bite
Onsite Medical Treatment Should Be Followed by a Visit to Urgent Care
I was about 1/2 mile from home and I kept my arm elevated until I got home. Then I ran cold water over the wound for a few minutes to help flush out any remaining bacteria or germs. I'm not squeamish and this was not a life and death situation. However, I knew that dirt, saliva and other bacteria could cause a nasty infection if I did not get medical attention.
I located an Urgent Care facility near my home, confirmed that they were still open and drove to the site. The Urgent Care nurse gave me a sponge and explained that additional 'scrubbing' of the wound was required. Scrubbing the wound was painful, and they made me do this for 10-minutes. I was given a tetanus shot in the arm to prevent some really nasty stuff from occurring, as well as a round of antibiotics. According to the Mayo Clinic, these vaccinations are a form of preventative medicine, and should be gotten every 10 years.
Follow Up With Animal Control and City Services
It took four days for Animal Control to contact the owner and confirm that the German Shepard was vaccinated. From what the Sheriff Department told me; the animals are required to be quarantined for 10 days unless the owners can produce vaccination records. I cleaned the wound a couple of times a day and covered it with Neosporin, an antibacterial ointment and a Band-Aid.
In all my life, no one has ever told me what to do if a dog attacks. It happened so fast that I'm not sure I could have used Mace if I was carrying it. The other issue with using that chemical deterrent is that wind direction matters. You don't want to spray it if the wind is blowing in your direction. The doctor told me that I should have been carrying a gun, and shot the dog. I have since taken Concealed Handgun License (CHL) training and am licensed in the state of Texas. Even so, the attack happened so quickly that I'm not sure I would have been able to draw a pistol while trying to keep the dog away from my face.
Do you know what questions to ask if you are attacked by a dog?
Find Out Your City Code Requirements for Pet Owners
According to the State Health and Safety Code (Chapter 8-26) in Houston, every animal bite must be reported. They suggest that you dial 311 instead of 911. However, not all cities have a 311 phone number.
Houston city code also suggests the following:
- Identity of the person that was bitten
- Contact information for the victim, including: address and phone number
- Date, time and address of the bite
- Clear description of the animal that caused the bite
- Owner's contact information if available
- Name, address, phone number
The One Bite Rule
Some states follow a 'one bite rule, but Texas does not. According to FindLaw.com, the one bite rule means that, "a victim can recover compensation from the owner, harborer or keeper of a dog if (a) the dog previously bit a person or acted like it wanted to, and (b) the defendant was aware of the dog's previous conduct. The tendency for a dog to injure humans is often referred to as "vicious propensities." If either of these two conditions aren't met, the victim cannot recover under this doctrine. In other words, Texas dogs gets one free bite before its owner is liable for damages." I don't know if I was the first person ever attacked by the German Shepard, but I have no doubt that he will bite again.
Texas' lack of dog bite statute is at odds with the majority of states because the one bite rule shields a dog owner from liability each time one of his dogs bites a person for the first time unless it can be proved that the owner knew that the dog had the propensity to bite people without justification. This makes is significantly harder for dog bite victims to recover damages
Who is Responsible For Your Medical Bills?
I was afraid and upset, but I was very concerned about getting the wound thoroughly cleaned so that I would not get an infection. The fear and the pain kept me from thinking beyond that point. The wound healed in a week, but then developed scar tissue. The dog owners at first refused to respond to the Harris County Sheriff Department and Animal Control. One of the lessons I learned from this situation was to capture specific information.
- The name of the person that owned the dog
- The owner's contact information
- Find out if the the dog vaccinated
I spent over $400 on medical bills from being attacked by someone else's dog. . I was terrified to walk up to the house and knock on the door, so I mailed a letter to the address where I was attacked, and included a copy of medical receipts. The owner called me and took full responsibility. She also reimbursed me for the cost of medical treatment. I sincerely hope that this information will be helpful to anyone else that may get bitten by a dog.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Michelle Orelup