Preventing Dog Bites: A Resource for Those Who Are Widowed, Divorced, or Separated

Photo of Jason LichtensteinBy Jason M. Lichtenstein, Esq.

If you’re widowed, divorced, or separated, you may have to rely on yourself for your own financial security. You have enough responsibilities to worry about, so that last thing you need is to suffer preventable injuries.

A common cause of serious injuries is dog attacks. According to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people sustain dog bite injuries every year in the United States. While many victims are children, many adults also are seriously injured – and must miss work while they recover.

Here several tips to help you learn more about dog safety, how to prevent dog attacks, and protect your rights and your financial interests:

  • Know the dog bite and leash laws in Pennsylvania. Dog owners must have “reasonable control” over their dog at all times. They must keep their dogs on a leash or have a fence around their property. Dog owners who fail to obey these laws may face fines. They also may be held responsible for a victim’s medical bills, pain and suffering, and other losses if their dog injures them.
  • Maintain control of your own dog. If you’re widowed, divorced, or separated, this is very important. Remember, you could face fines if you lose control of your dog. Also, watch when you approach another dog when you have yours with you. Some dogs are aggressive to other dogs, and you could end up bitten if you try to split up a dog fight.
  • Follow safety guidelines to prevent dog bites. Many of these guidelines are quite simple. Never leave a child alone with a dog. Don’t bend down or put your face near a dog’s face. Respect a dog’s space. Don’t place your hands on a dog’s fence, or walk too closely to a property line if the dog seems territorial. Allow a dog to sniff you before petting it. And, watch out for a mother dog with her puppies – she may be protective even if she’s not normally aggressive.
  • Know how to recognize a potentially aggressive dog. Most dogs show signs of aggression before they attack. The dog may pull back or wrinkle its nose, bark, growl, or snarl, and show its teeth. The hair on its back may stick up, and its ears may lie back against its head or be pushed forward. If an unrestrained dog approaches you, don’t run away, yell, make sudden movements, or try to threaten the dog. Stand still, with your arms crossed over your chest, and avoid eye contact. Toss an object away as a distraction, and then turn and walk away confidently.
  • Know what to do if you suffer a dog bite. First and foremost, seek medical attention immediately. Then, report the attack to the State Dog Warden of Allegheny County by calling 412-366-1989, and gather evidence to protect your legal rights. Take photos of your torn or shredded clothes, injuries, where the attack occurred, etc. Get contact information for any witnesses who saw the attack. If you had problems with this dog before, keep any records you have documenting them.
  • Understand your legal rights as a dog bite victim. Remember, if you’re bitten by a dog, the owner may be held liable for your medical expenses, pain and suffering, and any other losses, such as missed work time. You may need to consult an attorney if the dog owner or the insurance company doesn’t cooperate.

Following these six guidelines will help you avoid a dog attack and hopefully keep you from missing work due to dog bite injuries. As someone who is divorced, separated, or widowed, preventing accidents may be very important for both your health and your financial interests. Visit these links for more information on Pennsylvania’s dog bite lawsdog leash laws, and more safety tips.

Attorney Jason M. Lichtenstein is a partner at the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates. He has over 18 years of experience representing victims of dog bites. For more information on dog bites and animal attacks, visit

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