The following blog article was updated in January 2022.
Whether you’re out for a neighborhood walk or spending the day somewhere public, encountering an unleashed dog can be scary. You don’t know if the dog is potentially dangerous and will bite you. Understandably, one question we get periodically is, What do I do if I was threatened by an unleashed dog? It’s important to try to remain calm. Unfortunately, some encounters will turn into an attack, leaving you with injuries. If you or someone you love sustained a dog bite from an unleashed dog, contact the skilled Washington dog attack lawyers at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC.
Reacting to an Unleashed Dog
Dogs are territorial, which means if you enter somewhere they feel to be their territory, they may act aggressively. If you come across a dog that raises its fur, growls, barks, or bares its teeth, it’s essential to know how to react. Here are several tips to better prepare yourself should you encounter an unleashed dog.
First and most important, you should continue to remain calm. That will help you think about your next moves and hopefully minimize the risk of being attacked. Your first instinct may be to run, but that’s a terrible idea. Avoid making eye contact with an aggressive dog. It would be best if you started to slowly back away but never turn your back toward the dog.
As you back away, try to see if there’s an obstacle that you can put between you and the dog. Avoid yelling or making any sudden loud noises. Try to speak in a soothing voice. If you are yelling or using angry-sounding words, it can make the dog more aggressive. Do not attempt to approach or be aggressive yourself, as it may further provoke the dog.
In the event, the dog does try to attack you, try to shield yourself if possible. For example, use a purse or umbrella if available. Focus on protecting your head and face as best you can. If you are on the ground when a dog tries to attack you, curl into a fetal position. Try to cover your head with your arms and keep your fingers curled in a fist.
Do not pull away or try to hit the dog if it bites you, as that can also make the situation worse.
What to Do If You’re Injured
If the unleashed dog attacks you, seeking immediate medical attention is important. If the bite is severe enough, you should dial 911 right away. An unleashed dog that doesn’t have a nearby owner could put you at risk for rabies. You want to get the wounds cleaned and treated right away.
Be sure to contact law enforcement and animal control if you didn’t call 911. The proper authorities must try to identify and contain the dog so no one else is injured. You want to find the dog’s owner, so you can present a personal injury claim for your injuries and other damages.
Washington Leash Laws
There is no statewide leash law or licensing requirement in Washington. Municipalities and cities institute and enforce these issues. Do not assume that laws are the same in every city either. In Seattle, all animals (except for cats and pigeons) must be on a leash in the city. They cannot run loose unless they are in a designated off-leash area. In Tacoma, dogs must be on a leash that is no longer than eight feet at all times; otherwise, they must be confined to their owner’s property.
Washington State Dog Bite Laws
Washington follows the rule of strict liability for dog bites. That means the dog owner could be held liable when the dog bites someone for the first time, regardless of whether the owner is negligent or not. Under Washington’s dog bite laws, it doesn’t matter whether the dog bit someone before, was previously aggressive, or the owner knew about the potentially aggressive nature of their dog.
Prior to 2020, Washington had breed-specific laws that allowed various cities to ban possession of certain breeds of dogs. House Bill 1026 was introduced in 2019 and came into effect in 2020. Now, towns and municipalities can only enforce breed-specific laws under certain circumstances.
The state laws on dog breeds don’t apply to insurance companies, though. Many insurance companies have a list of uninsurable dog breeds. If the dog that bit you was one of these breeds, the dog owner’s insurance company may deny your personal injury claim.
Why You Need an Experienced Washington Dog Attack Lawyer
If an unleashed dog attacked you, you have rights. However, pursuing an injury claim for a dog bite can be complicated. It’s best if you retain a skilled Washington dog attack lawyer to help you. You need a legal advocate who can protect your rights and is familiar with the laws in Washington.
When you retain an attorney at Brett McCandlis Brown & Conner PLLC, we will work tirelessly to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. While the dog bite laws in Washington favor the victim, we know the challenges you will face during the claims process. We will work with the defendant’s insurance company and handle all communications, so you don’t have to. If the insurance company confirms coverage, it doesn’t mean they will offer you what your case is worth.
If an insurance company offers you any compensation, do not agree to accept it and sign a release without speaking with an attorney first. We can negotiate on your behalf and help you maximize your potential settlement.
If the adjuster denies liability, you may need to file a lawsuit. In some instances, you may need to take your case to trial. You need a skilled litigator representing you from the start. Our Washington dog attack attorneys have over four decades of combined litigation experience and know-how to prepare and try a case in court.
Contact our office today to schedule an initial meeting. We offer free consultations, so you have nothing to lose by meeting with us. You deserve to be compensated for your injuries and any future treatment you might need. Let us put our expertise to work for you and help you fight for the compensation you are owed after an unleashed dog bit you.