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What Is Responsible for Pandemic Dog Bites?

By Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S. on June 15, 2021

German Shepherd sitting on dirt in front of a fence2020 brought many drastic changes to Washington as our state felt the brunt of the pandemic at the very start of the year. Strict lockdown protocols led to the closure of numerous business, ultimately forcing many into work-from-home lifestyles. With all this extra time at home, many chose to adopt puppies to deal with isolation. However, this brought a whole another set of issues, as bright-eyed dog owners realized they were not as prepared for their new responsibilities as they originally thought.

Did 2020 Have a Dog Bite Epidemic?

Back in September 2020, U.S. News released a startling article on the rise of dog bites during the pandemic, citing that multiple hospitals and emergency rooms saw an influx of dog bites since March. Many of the bites involved children, where freshly adopted and untrained puppies bit their young companions. These bites were attributed to the fact that the parents, who likely adopted the dog at the start of the pandemic, did not have enough time to monitor their children and their dogs, provide proper training, and help their animals adjust to the work-from-home routine. As a result, many owners had to face the harsh reality of taking care of a pet on a tight schedule.

To compound fears, State Farm Insurance reported back in April 2021 that the company paid more than $157 million for 3,185 dog bite claims in just 2020 alone, pointing to March as having the highest rate of bites. The company cited the rise in dog adoptions during lockdown, as well as increased anxiety in the dogs when they started to be able to go outside later in the summer. The company also raised concerns about future bites as the country begins to open up, arguing that many dogs were unable to socialize during 2020 and may have difficulties adjusting to public spaces.

Did Dog Bites Increase During the Pandemic?

While the above reports would have you believe that 2020 saw a dog-bite epidemic, the truth is that this was a false alarm. After analyzing dog bite claims from multiple agencies across the county, the Insurance Information Institute (II) concluded that the United States actually saw a drop in dog bite claims by 4.6% in 2020 compared to 2019. While the average value of claims has increased to as high as $50,000, this has been a growing trend over the past decade as juries take a more aggressive stance on dog attacks.

However, that does not mean that the pandemic left no lasting effects on dog bites in America. Just as pet adoptions soared during 2020, shelters are reporting an increase in re-sheltering by owners who were not fully prepared to take on the responsibilities of owning a pet. Re-sheltering a dog is a complex matter. On the one hand, a dog should not live in a home that does not have the capabilities to properly train it and teach it to behave out in public. But re-sheltering can cause a lot of anxiety in younger dogs, making it difficult for them to trust strangers in the future and learn to behave. Experts argue that rehoming or re-sheltering an aggressive dog is not a wise decision, and proper training and behavioral classes are the best approach to preventing injuries. Owners should also review suggestions made by the American Veterinary Medical Association about preventing dog bites as pandemic restrictions loosen.

What If I Was Bitten by a Dog?

If you were bitten by someone else’s dog in Seattle, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible and report the bite to Animal Control. A dog bite can lead to further complications down the line, from infection to mental health issues. To help cover the costs of your treatment, you should speak to a Seattle personal injury attorney at Hardwick & Pendergast, P.S.

In the state of Washington, dog bites are covered by strict liability, meaning the dog’s owner is responsible for paying compensation after an attack, whether the dog had aggressive tendencies or the owner acted negligently – or not. Our team can go over the facts of your case in a free consultation and explain how to get you compensation for your injuries. To discuss your case today, call us at (425) 228-3860 or toll-free at (888) 228-3860.

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