Dogs provide companionship that enriches the lives of many families and individuals. Usually, dogs are very friendly towards humans, but there are cases where the opposite is true. Sadly, dog bites are the most common cause of personal injury by an animal in Scotland. Emergency admissions to Scottish hospitals after a dog attack have risen by 80% since 2005 according to NHS figures. Sadly, these figures also show an increase in the number of young children being most victims.

Why do dogs attack people?

Dogs can be very unpredictable in their behaviour towards other animals and humans, even if they’ve previously showed no signs of aggression. Dogs are social animals by nature, with a well-defined pack hierarchy. When the dog doesn’t know where their place is within the human hierarchy, they will naturally try to assert themselves in a form of growling, barking or even biting. This explains many of the dog attacks on little children within families. While dogs can’t be judged by the same standards we apply to humans, when they suddenly turn aggressive, it is often due to lack of care on the owner’s part.

Owner’s responsibility

Dog owners have a responsibility to monitor their dog’s behaviour in public places and attend dog training classes to ensure that their dog isn’t showing signs of aggression and doesn’t bite people or attack other animals. Unfortunately, there are people who encourage their dogs to be aggressive, which can result in serious physical and mental injuries. This is particularly distressing when a child is the victim of a dog bite. Dog attacks on small children have far worse consequences due to a child’s small body size and weight.

Making a dog bite claim

If you or someone you know has been attacked by a dog then you may be able to claim compensation. This applies to dog attacks in public as well as inside the home. If you have been attacked or bitten by a dog then you may be able to pursue a claim. This would be against the dog’s owner or whoever was responsible for the animal at that time of the attack, for example a dog walker.

In order to proceed with your claim, make sure you get the owner’s contact details and those of any witnesses. You should consider reporting the incident to the police too (this can also help the case of any potential future victims). The majority of people who own a dog will have home insurance or dedicated pet insurance – if your dog bite compensation claim is successful, the pay-out should be from the dog owner’s insurance company.

For your claim to be successful, you will need evidence that the owner or whoever was in charge of the dog at the time of the attack should have known that the dog was dangerous and failed to control or restrain it. This is more prevalent with particular breeds as the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 specifies certain dog breeds must be muzzled in public under.