Preventing Dog Bites: A Resource for Healthcare Workers

Updated on August 28, 2023

By Jason M. Lichtenstein, Esq.

Whether you’re a healthcare worker who has direct contact with patients or not, chances are you’ve at least heard about people who have suffered dog bites and dog attacks. Maybe you’ve seen a dog bite victim, and witnessed firsthand how serious these injuries can be.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the United States – unfortunately, many are children.

You and your family spend time outside, especially during the summer. Know that there are several things you can do to help protect your family and prevent dog bites. The ability to identify a dog showing aggressive behavior and react correctly may help you avoid a trip to the ER.

Dog Bites and Pennsylvania Law

While certain dog breeds have a reputation for being more aggressive than others, dog owners are the single largest factor in determining a dog’s behavior.

If you own a dog in Pennsylvania, there are laws that govern your responsibilities as a dog owner. Perhaps the most important is that you’re required to have “reasonable control” over your dog at all times, which means the dog must always be on a leash or confined within a fence. If you fail to control your dog, and your dog bites someone, you may be held responsible for medical expenses, and possibly other damages.

Signs of an Aggressive Dog

Most dogs don’t bite without warning – they often show signs of aggression before they attack. A dog that is getting angry or upset may pull back or wrinkle its nose, bare its teeth, and growl or snarl. The hair along the back of its neck or spine may stick up, and its ears may lie back against its head or be pushed forward.

Preventing Dog Bites and Attacks

You can help prevent trips to the ER and dog bite injuries by sharing the following tips with patients, visitors, coworkers, and your own family:

  • Never leave a child alone with a dog.
  • Never bend down or put your face near a dog’s face.
  • Don’t place your hands on a dog’s fence to pet it.
  • Ask a dog’s owner for permission before petting the dog. Allow the dog to sniff you before touching the dog. Don’t make any abrupt movements when petting the dog.
  • Be extra careful around a mother with her puppies. She may be protective, even if she’s not normally aggressive.
  • If approached by a dog not on a leash, don’t run away, yell, or make sudden movements. Stand still, with your arms crossed over your chest, and avoid making eye contact with the dog. If the dog is aggressive, toss an object away from you to distract it. Then, turn and walk confidently from the dog.

If You Suffer a Dog Bite…

If the worst does happen and you or a family member are bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately. Puncture wounds can become infected and be very serious, and many dog bites leave scars.

Next, report the attack to the Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement or State Dog Warden, as well as the local police department. The number for the State Dog Warden for Allegheny County is 412-366-1989. You also can contact the regional office at 724-443-1585. Reporting attacks can help prevent others from injury as well.

Finally, preserve as much evidence as you can. Take photos of the clothes you wore (especially of tears or shreds), your injuries, where the attack occurred, etc. Also, if you had problems with this dog or the dog owner before, document them and keep records.

Do Your Part to Prevent Dog Bites

If you suffer dog bite injuries, the dog owner may liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other losses under Pennsylvania law. However, at that point it’s too late.

Healthcare workers treat thousands of dog bite victims every year. Knowing Pennsylvania’s dog bite laws and leash laws, and sharing these safety tips may help avoid trips to the hospital and legal hassles.

Attorney Jason M. Lichtenstein is a partner at the Pennsylvania law firm of Edgar Snyder & Associates. He has over 18 years of experience representing victims of dog bites. For more information on dog bites and animal attacks, visit

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