Before you know it, you'll be getting into Halloween preparation mode with your children. If they're going to be trick-or-treating, it's essential to make sure they know what to do when they encounter a dog. Too often, dogs rush out the door when it's opened and end up running loose --- excited and possibly afraid. Whether your kids are with you or another adult or they and their friends are old enough to venture out on their own, potential dog bites and attacks are something to be aware of.
Even if your kids love dogs and know how to interact safely with them, extra care is required on Halloween. It's a frightening night for many dogs. Strangers are coming to their homes. When they're out for their evening walk, they're seeing kids in costumes carrying unfamiliar objects. They may not recognize kids they know. Normally friendly dogs can react out of fear or the need to protect their home and their people by biting.
Following are a few safety tips that can help your kids (and you) avoid having Halloween ruined by a dog bite:
- If you hear a dog barking aggressively inside a home or in the yard (fenced in or not), move on to the next house.
- If you see a dog you know inside its home and it doesn't seem to recognize you in your costume and mask, talk to the dog quietly, using its name. Don't move toward the dog, however. It's best not to do anything that could startle or threaten it.
- If you encounter a dog -- particularly one you don't know -- running loose, stand still or slowly back away. Above all, remain calm and quiet. Running away screaming -- which is many kids' instinct -- will only cause the dog to follow.
Dog owners have obligations on Halloween and always to do everything within reason to prevent their pets from harming anyone. If your child is bitten or attacked by a dog, or if you are, take care of the wound immediately and determine whether a visit to the doctor or warranted.
Serious dog bites can cause physical and emotional injuries and lead to extensive medical bills. That's why it's important to determine what your options are for holding dog owners legally and financially responsible.