Dog Bites

Dogs may become dangerous if they feel threatened or afraid. You should know how to safely approach a dog and how to respond to a dog bite.

Children are most at risk. Most bite injuries are from an owned pet, and young children are usually bitten by a dog that is familiar to them. Parents and caretakers should teach children how and when to play with dogs and when to leave them alone.

Preventing Dog Bites


  • Ask the owner for permission before petting a dog.
  • Gently raise your hand to let the dog smell it.
  • Move slowly and let the dog come to you.

Do not:

  • Approach an unknown dog or a dog that is without an owner.
  • Play with a dog if it is eating, sleeping or caring for its puppies. Dogs naturally guard their puppies, toys and food.
  • Reach over or through a fence to pet a dog.
  • Poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog. The dog may not realize you are trying to play.
  • Chase a dog or run and scream from a dog.
  • Leave a baby or child alone with any dog.

Responding to Dog Bites

If you have been bitten by a dog:

  • Get the dog owner's name, address and phone number.
  • If the dog is unknown, get information for any person that may be able to identify the dog.
  • Wash the bite wound with soap and water.
  • Contact your doctor for specific care instructions.
  • Report the bite or call 311. Information reported helps the Health Department determine if you might need a rabies shot.
  • If a dog poses an immediate danger to you or others, call 911.

Laws and Tips for Pet Owners

Responsible Dog Ownership

When choosing a dog, make sure its personality and physical demands fit your lifestyle. If you already have a dog, keep your dog healthy and well-behaved. Responsible dog owners can prevent dog bites and keep their dogs and others safe.

If you have a dog:

  • Train your dog to learn basic commands and how to be well-behaved around other animals and people. Get professional help if your dog behaves aggressively.
  • Socialize your dog with other people and pets and new places.
  • Supervise children when they are around your dog.
  • Monitor your dog. If your dog becomes nervous or fearful, remove your dog from the situation. Prevent any situation where your dog may be teased or threatened.
  • Do not engage in games with your dog, such as tug of war, if your dog becomes aggressive.
  • Do not allow your dog to behave aggressively behind a fence when people walk by.
  • Spay or neuter your dog to reduce aggression. Studies show neutered animals are less likely to bite.
  • Provide your dog with exercise, wholesome food and lots of attention.

Laws for Pet Owners

  • Get a dog license. The City Health Code requires that dogs have a license tag attached to the collar when out in public. A license can help reunite you with your dog if it gets lost.
  • Follow the Leash Law (PDF). Dogs in public must be on a leash no more than six feet long.
  • All dogs and cats four months of age and older must receive a first rabies vaccination and thereafter additional rabies booster vacinations. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is up to date with its vaccines.
  • Do not tether your dog. Tying or chaining a dog for longer than three hours is illegal.
  • Owners must clean up after their dogs in public areas.

Additional Resources

More Information