A lot is written about dogs biting humans and its legal and medical implications. What’s less written about is the legal and medical implications of dogs biting dogs.
Legal advise on how to handle “dog-on-dog” bites in the UK can be found on the web and this is from a website: www.lawonetheweb.co.uk
“ The biting of dogs by other dogs could be viewed as something of a grey area of law. Each case may be seen differently, with a key issue being the notion of whether the hound responsible for delivering the attack is deemed to have been adequately controlled by its owner.
This is because the law says that it is an offence for a dog owner to allow their dog to be “dangerously out of control”. If another dog attacks your dog, and particularly if you fear that it will injure you if you attempt to stop the attack, it may be that the owner of the other dog is guilty of a failure to control their pet. A court will be able to make a decision on the circumstances surrounding the attack and whether or not an offence was committed.
It is illegal for a dog to be dangerously out of control anywhere, including in public and private spaces and even in the dog owner’s own home, so the location of the incident is likely to be irrelevant if your dog has been attacked.
The punishment for allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control can be any combination of the following:
• A fine of up to £5,000
• A jail sentence of up to 6 months
• Destruction of the offending dog
• A ban on future dog ownership.
You can also take the other dog’s owner to court to claim back any veterinary bills you have had to pay as a result of the attack.
If a dog is allowed to injure a guide dog, the owner can be sentenced to up to 3 years in jail, with a fine also being possible.”
That’s for the legal bit and as it’s not my area of expertise, I have just quoted from the website.
However I have seen my fair share of the medical repercussions of “dog-on-dog” bites in practice, from minor to severe injuries.
I will give you an example from practice. Freddy, a quiet and lovely greyhound was brought to the surgery after being attacked by another dog. He couldn’t stand up properly and seemed to be in a lot of pain. On superficial inspection, he apparently had only a few “minor”-looking puncture wounds all over his body and a small skin flap on the right side of his neck.
He was administered medication to alleviate his pain that night. Freddy was admitted the following morning for explorative surgery. Every puncture mark was opened up a bit more to check the muscle underneath. Under practically every puncture mark a muscle shear was revealed and was the cause the intense pain felt in this dog and the inability to stand up. The most shocking find in this dog was that the jugulars on both sides during this incident had been missed by the attacking dog by about 2mm!!
This is not the only time I have seen injuries like this. Another dog that was brought in with similar injuries and had been seen by a colleague out of hours. He just couldn’t put his leg down. Opening up the wounds revealed that the bitten foreleg had a chewed through triceps muscle. No wonder he couldn’t use his leg. Once the muscles were cleaned up and sutured together, the pain subsided and the healing continued uneventfully.
Dog bites are very different from “cat-on-cat” bites. With cats, when they bite, they often leave a puncture mark and with those bites, they easily get infected (also if a cat bites a human). I have however not seen instances like I have seen in dogs where exploratory surgery revealed extensive damage, apart from when the puncture hole was over the chest cavity.
If you see how a dog can chew and gnaw through flesh and bones of a butcher’s bone, you can imagine what damage those teeth and strength of jaws can do during a dog attack.
Just flushing out a wound at that time may not be sufficient. If there is significant pain (i.e. the dog not using the leg, crying out in pain or becoming defensive and aggressive when approached) the wound may well need to be opened up for the deeper tissues to be inspected and repaired.