When Pets Bite: Understanding Your Legal Obligations as a Veterinary Practice

While many pets are friendly and easy to treat, some who visit the veterinarian are stressed, in pain, or haven’t been socialized. These pets pose a risk of biting the veterinarian, a staff member, or another dog. Understanding your legal obligations as a veterinary clinic or hospital owner after a dog bite incident is crucial for protecting your practice. 

How Common Are Dog Bites at Veterinary Clinics?

Veterinarians, veterinary techs, and support staff are much more likely to suffer dog bite injuries than the general public. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports approximately three injuries for every 1,000 animal encounters at veterinary offices. 

The most common injuries caused by dog bites at veterinary clinics include injuries to the hands, fingers, and wrists. The most common type of dog bite injury at a veterinary clinic is a puncture wound, but lacerations, contusions, and other types of wounds can also occur.

Can a Veterinarian or Staff Member Sue a Customer for a Dog Bite?

If you’re a veterinary practice staff member and a customer’s dog has injured you, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries through a legal claim. Generally, dog owners are liable for any injuries their pets cause. Veterinary practices are generally not liable when a customer’s dog bites unless they negligently monitored the animal, causing the attack.

Every state has passed laws that hold dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets. In some states, the owner may be able to defend themselves by claiming the victim was aware of the dog’s dangerous nature before they were bitten. The dog’s owner may be able to avoid paying compensation by claiming the victim assumed the risk of handling a dangerous dog. 

There are some standard exceptions to the assumption of risk defense. For example, the victim may still be able to hold the dog’s owner liable and recover compensation if the owner still had complete control of the dog when the attack happened. 

For example, if a staff member walks by a dog sitting with its owner in the lobby and the dog lunges at them and bites them, they’d likely be able to sue the dog’s owner successfully. Additionally, the victim could be successful if the owner hides information from them indicating that the dog was especially dangerous. 

What to Do If a Customer’s Dog Attacks at Your Veterinary Practice

The steps you take after a dog bite attack are important. First, you should seek immediate medical attention by calling 911. You should also report the incident to the police. Write down identifying information about the dog, take photographs of your wounds, and write how the incident occurred. 

Your next step should be to speak to an attorney. An attorney can review the facts of the incident and advise you on the best strategy to recover compensation, whether through a personal injury lawsuit, an insurance claim, or a workers’ compensation claim. 

Contact Our Experienced Nationwide Veterinary Lawyers

Speaking to a skilled attorney as soon as possible after the dog bite incident can help you protect yourself and your veterinary practice. At Mahan Law – Veterinary Attorney, our experienced attorneys will provide tailored legal guidance, help you understand your legal rights, and help you pursue any legal proceedings, if necessary. Don’t hesitate to contact Mahan Law – Veterinary Attorney to schedule a free case evaluation.