Imagine you’ve been in a serious car accident. You’re scared, in pain, and trapped. The fire rescue worker arrives and the first thing he asks you is, “So, were you going a little fast? Maybe changing your radio station? Had a little too much to drink?”
Then why, when a person is bitten by a dog, do the recriminations and fault-finding happen before anyone expresses concern for the person with the injury?
Blame the Victim, Save the Dog?
I recently read a short blog post urging dog lovers to unite to save the life of a dog who bit someone in his own yard. The article was so short it omitted that the bite victim needed 200 stitches and that she was not trespassing, as widely assumed by commenters, but a friend of a child in the family.
But of course, it didn’t take much to start a fury of dog lovers to abuse the bite victim for causing her own injuries.
Do I believe that people who misunderstand dogs can act in ways to encourage a bite? Of course. But cursing at a child online does nothing to rescue a dog from death or to prevent future bites.
The Problem of Dog Bites
Dog bites are serious. Dog owners can be jailed for failing to prevent a bite. And the biting dog might be killed.
But first, express concern for the person who was bitten. They are in pain. They may fear dogs for the rest of their lives.
And even if they did something that led to the bite, they’re no different from any of us who have done stupid things while managing not to pay the price we deserve for our stupidity.
Showing concern for a person who has been bitten in no way means you care less for the dog. And reaching out to a bite victim may ultimately help the biting dog in the end.
Apologize for No Harm Done
While ruminating on this bite story all week, I had an interesting experience myself yesterday.
A major street in the center of town was closed off to cars so people could enjoy walking, biking, and playing in the street. It was a pretty bustling scene.
All of a sudden I saw big, happy dog with his leash dragging nose-to-nose with Honey. A few seconds his person caught up with him in a panic saying, “Don’t worry. He’s not aggressive.” There was no harm done and I told him so.
What I didn’t realize at first was that on his rush to greet Honey and Sally, the dog had knocked over a girl walking with her friend. She was crying, had scrapes on her elbows, and was holding the small of her back. The dog person did eventually go back to check on her. But he spent less time seeing if she was all right than he did reassuring me his dog was no threat to mine.
Maybe it’s part of living in a litigious society.
People are afraid to apologize or express concern when they’re responsible for someone’s injury because they don’t want it to work against them in court.
But research into malpractice claims found that doctors were less likely to be sued for mistakes during care if they had a good rapport with their patient. The doctors most likely to be sued were not less skilled in medicine but less skilled in their bedside manner.
What if the same thing is true in dog bite cases? What if a person whose dog bites reaches out to the bite victim? Pays for his treatment? Apologizes?
I’d bet they’re less likely to face a victim’s demands in court that the vicious dog be euthanized.
And that sure would be good for the person and good for the dog.
Your Turn: What do you think is the most effective way to deal with dog bites? Has your dog ever bitten someone? What happened?