Tonights guest blog is from Shirley, a volunteer and dog trainer…
Something that strikes fear in the heart of any dog owner is a dog fight. Even worse is the possibility of being involved in a dog attack, be that on themselves, another person or their dog.
The second scenario is exactly what happened to me and my small dog recently whilst out walking not far from my house. As a dog trainer I have no fear of dogs and should know what to do in these circumstances, you will not be surprised to know however that common sense flies out the window, protective instinct takes over and the result was that I was also bitten.
In my particular case my dog was brutally and savagely attacked without warning or provocation but the rules governing what to do afterwards are the same regardless of the circumstances leading up to it. The purpose of this blog therefore is to clarify the procedures to be followed should you ever be unlucky enough to find yourself in this position and so that once the situation is under control you will know the correct steps to take.
What to do
Firstly stop the aggression by whatever means you have to hand without putting yourself at risk and secure the area, assess the situation and attend to injured parties. If a person has been injured and needs medical assistance, call the SAMU (15)/SAPEURS POMPIERS (18) and also the POLICE (17)if deemed necessary, or use the all services Europe wide number 112 to get appropriate assistance. If an animal is injured and needs urgent attention then if possible call a local vet. Vets will not normally come to the scene of an accident but at least you can get advice and warn them of your arrival at the clinic.
You will be worried about the person or dog who has been injured and anxious to get to help but do not leave the scene without getting details from the attacking dog’s owner (if present), full name, address and telephone number, if possible check their identification. If they have a mobile phone ask them to call you so you are certain you have been given the correct number. If there were witnesses take their names and phone numbers too. Take photos!
All of this of course relies on you having a mobile phone with you, I must confess that not being far from home I did not. I NEVER go out without one now though!!
The injured party/ies have been taken care of. Now what?
As soon as possible and within at least 5 days of the incident you should advise your insurers of the attack and write a declaration of the circumstances, accompanied by the details of the dog’s owner and any witnesses etc. This is so that you can make a claim on their ‘Assurance de Responsabilité Civile’, or Public Liability Insurance, for any medical or veterinary expenses incurred. Be as clear and concise as possible but stick to the facts. The dog’s owner also needs to make a declaration to their insurer giving their point of view. If it is clear cut and you can agree on a joint statement this will speed things up enormously.
Assurance de Responsabilité Civile- what you need to do if you have animals
Under your house insurance in France – Assurance Habitation- you are covered, at no extra charge, under the personal liability clause for damage done by pets, in this instance dogs, providing you can prove due care was taken. If you own a dog therefore you must tell your insurance company otherwise you risk invalidating any claim.
Who is responsible?
French law states that the person at the end of the lead is responsible for the dog. In simple terms this means that if you look after someone’s dog you could be liable for any damage, accidents, bites etc. My insurer informs me that just for a simple walk there would be no transfer of responsibility, but for longer periods of care a letter from the owner stating the dog was in your care between certain dates would be necessary to avoid being liable. Do however check with your own insurance company.
What does French law state regarding dog bites?
Any dog that has bitten a human must be evaluated by a vet. Three visits are necessary, the first within 24 hours of the bite a second visit after 7 days and a third at 15 days. After 15 days the vet will (assuming no risk) issue a certificate in triplicate declaring the animal free from rabies. The copies are destined for the owner, the person who was bitten and the insurance company.
Since 2008 all dog bites whether towards a human or an animal should be declared, by the owner or person looking after the dog, at their local Mairie. The dog may then be subjected to an evaluation by a vet behaviourist who will determine the level of risk and a certificate issued. In extreme cases the dog may be euthanised.