Dog owners in the Pee Dee and throughout South Carolina have a difficult duty every Halloween: Keeping visitors safe from their pets.
As personal injury lawyers that represent dog bite victims in Florence and across the state, we ask dog owners to recognize the risks that can arise with dog attacks throughout the year – and especially on Halloween night. We also urge those who are going out on Halloween to be mindful of being around pets.
As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports, an estimated 4.7 million people suffer dog bites every year in the United States. Nearly half of those victims (42 percent) are children under the age of 14 – the same age group that will comprise the majority of trick-or-treaters this Tuesday, October 31.
Protecting Your Visitors from Dog Bites on Halloween
Building on suggestions from PetMD.com, we offer the following tips to help you prevent your pets from biting the ghosts, witches, superheroes and princesses who will be ringing your door bell or visiting your home for a party this Halloween:
- Keep your dog away from the yard and/or door.
Dogs are territorial. When strangers start suddenly showing up in their yard or at their front door, dogs can become protective and may bark, bite or otherwise lash out. It won’t help the situation if those visitors are dressed in strange costumes and making loud noises.
Don’t leave your dog in the yard. You should also keep the front door or porch off limits if that is where you are giving out candy to trick-or-treaters.
Instead, move your dog inside to a room where the dog will be isolated and unable to come into contact with visitors. Turn on a TV or radio to tune out the noise, and give your dog a treat to keep the pet occupied.
By moving your dog inside for a few hours, you protect your dog’s safety, too. Unfortunately, Halloween is a night that brings out pranksters. You don’t want anyone to tease, harm or take your dog.
- If you do let your dog out, use a leash.
If you absolutely don’t want your dog indoors, then please use a leash. If it is a fixed leash, make sure it is in a backyard or other area that keeps the dog out of visitors’ reach. If you are walking around, make sure it is leash that will allow you to quickly move the dog away from visitors.
You should also keep in mind that a dog should be kept away from any decorations such as candles and jack-o-lanterns, which can be knocked over and start a fire.
- Don’t dress your dog in a costume.
The safest thing to do is to avoid putting your pet in a costume altogether. However, if you do put your dog in a costume, make sure it is not one that will restrict the dog’s vision and movement or cause an allergic reaction that may impact the dog’s temperament. A good idea is a simple bandana.
Finally, we should point out one additional tip that deals with pet safety on Halloween. As PetMD.com points out, you should keep any chocolate and other candy out of your dog’s reach. A dog can become seriously ill from ingesting chocolate or candy that contains the artificial sweetener, xylitol.
Avoiding Dog Bites When Going Out on Halloween
In addition to passing out treats, many people will take their children around the neighborhood to collect candy. American Family Insurance provides an excellent set of tips on how to avoid dog bites. You should share these tips with your children before you head out for a night of trick-or-treating.
Tell them to never:
- Approach an unfamiliar dog. (However, even approaching a familiar dog while wearing a costume or mask may be dangerous.)
- Wake or otherwise disturb a dog that appears to be sleeping or eating.
- Make direct eye contact with a dog.
Tell your children to:
- Allow a dog to see and sniff them before making contact with it.
- Stay motionless if a dog approaches and do not run and scream.
- Roll into a ball, cover their ears and stay still if a dog attacks.
Additionally, you should tell your child that, before going to a door where a dog is present, they should wait until the owner moves the dog away or restrains it.
Negligent Dog Owners Can Be Held Liable in South Carolina
As a recent report by Fox 8 News reflects, dog attacks can result in serious and even fatal injuries. According to this report, a woman died and two other women were severely injured when they were attacked by an unneutered, 85-pound male pit bull in Spartanburg County.
Under South Carolina law, strict liability applies to dog owners. This means that if a person is attacked by a dog while in a public area or lawfully on privately owned premises, the dog’s owner can be liable for all harm the victim suffers.
The only exception lies where a dog bite results from a victim provoking the dog.
A person who is attacked by a dog may seek a recovery for all past and future medical expenses, damaged personal property, lost income, pain and suffering and other damages. Typically, the recovery is sought through the dog owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy.
The personal injury attorneys of Jebaily Law Firm hope everyone follows proper safety measures around dogs and other pets and enjoys a happy Halloween. However, if a dog bite or attack occurs, we believe it is important to contact a lawyer without delay in order to protect your rights.