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Avoiding dog bites this summer (and what to do if you can't)

All dogs have the potential to bite -- and the bite from a chihuahua can be as dangerous due to infection as the bite from a bulldog.

Roughly 4.5 million dog bites happen in the United States each year. Bites tend to happen more often in the summer for a pretty basic reason: Nice weather encourages people to be outside more with their pups in public places, around other people.

In order to avoid being bitten, take a few basic precautions:

-- Never approach a dog without permission from the owner. Don't ask as you are reaching for the dog, either, because the dog may take that as a sign of aggression toward his or her owner. Wait until you get the okay and the owner either walks the dog to you or tells the dog to sit.

-- Do not reach out and playfully interfere with a dog that is playing with a ball, a stick or any other toy. While you may be trying to engage the dog in play, the dog may think you are trying to take what is rightfully his.

-- Never approach a dog that is eating. You have no way of knowing if that dog has food aggression issues or not.

-- If a dog growls at you, adopts a stance with a lowered head, shows you the whites of his eyes, stiffens his tail and lets his hair bristle, drop your hands to your sides and back away slowly.

-- Keeps your children away from strange dogs. Children under a certain age simply don't understand the difference between a stuffed animal and a live animal, so they can end up hurting the dog -- and may get bitten in response.

Arizona law requires dog bites to be reported to Animal Control and the dog must be quarantined. In general, Arizona puts liability for any injuries from a bite on the dog's owner, even if the dog has never bitten anyone before -- unless the individual bitten provoked the animal in some way or was unlawfully on the owner's property.

There's really no such thing as a minor dog bite, so seek medical attention promptly -- if just for antibiotic treatment. Also, consider contacting an animal bite attorney as soon as possible in order to discuss the possibility of a lawsuit to recover fair compensation for your losses.

Source: FindLaw, "Phoenix Dog Bites: The Basics," accessed June 16, 2017

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