Many Illinois parents have dogs as pets. People often think of their dogs as members of the family, and it is difficult for them to remember that they are animals who may behave in unexpected ways. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 50,000 children under the age of 7 were injured by a dog bite in 2014.

For many reasons, children may be particularly vulnerable to dog bites. Because of their height, they might be more likely to get bitten at the head and neck level. Damage from a dog bite can be life-threatening. It may require plastic surgery, and it may be traumatic for children who might become anxious or fearful around dogs. However, children are still often left unsupervised around familiar dogs even though research has shown that they need to be more closely supervised. One reason is because children often engage in behavior that causes stress for the dog such as hugging, kissing or pulling on the dog.

Experts say that parents should learn to recognize dogs’ body language that shows discomfort. They should prevent children from behaving aggressively around the dog, and they might want to seek expert behavioral help if the dog is showing aggression.

Whether a dog bites a child or an adult, such an injury can be devastating. Even what appears to be a relatively small bite in a less vulnerable area of the body, such as the arm, may become infected. Dog bites may cause nerve damage. The owner of the dog may be legally responsible for the dog’s behavior unless there are extenuating circumstances such as the dog being provoked. A person who is bitten or whose child is bitten may want to discuss the situation with an attorney. A lawyer may be able to help a bite victim seek compensation to help cover medical expenses.