Dog Bites in Tampa Bay: Your Must-Follow Action Plan

Dog bites Tampa Bay

Being bitten by an unfamiliar dog can be a scary and dangerous situation. Dog bites can cause injuries ranging from minor scratches to severe wounds requiring plastic surgery or amputation. They can also transmit rabies or life-threatening infections if not treated properly.

If you are bitten by someone else’s dog in the Tampa Bay area, you should take immediate action to care for your injury, hold the dog owner accountable, prevent further harm to yourself and others, and mitigate any long-term physical or emotional trauma stemming from the incident. Here is a step-by-step guide on exactly what to do.

Seek Medical Attention Immediately

Your top priority after a dog bite should be getting prompt medical care. Even small puncture wounds or scratches can hide serious underlying damage to muscles, tendons, nerves, and blood vessels. Seek emergency care or visit your doctor right away after being bitten to get the injury professionally evaluated and treated. The sooner you get help, the lower your risk of permanent damage or disfigurement.

Wash The Wound Thoroughly

Once bleeding is under control, immediately wash the bite wound with mild soap and warm running water. Thorough washing helps prevent infection by flushing out dirt, debris, and bacteria introduced by the dog’s mouth. Carefully clean around the injury without directly touching the torn skin or applying pressure. Cover with a sterile bandage, and change the dressing whenever it becomes dirty. Keeping the wound clean protects against dangerous infections.

Report The Bite to Authorities

Any dog that bites hard enough to break the skin has demonstrated aggressive behavior requiring intervention. Reporting the incident helps identify dangerous dogs and irresponsible owners before others get harmed. Notify the following agencies after receiving medical care:

File a Police Report

File a formal bite report with the local police department or animal control agency where the incident occurred. Give an accurate record of the event including the owner’s details, dog’s appearance and actions, and the circumstances surrounding the bite. This generates an official paper trail in case your injury worsens or leads to legal action.

Notify Animal Control

Call animal control to inform them a dog has bitten and broken skin. Provide identifying details so they can locate the animal and owner. An animal control officer will follow up to ensure the dog’s rabies shots are current and may require the owner to surrender the dog for observation during a 10-day quarantine period.

Report to Public Health Department

Contact your county health department to alert disease control staff about the bite. Give your physician’s details so they can coordinate rabies treatment and collect data on dog bite injuries. Public health reporting helps protect you and prevents future attacks through owner citations or forced pup surrender if the dog proves vicious.

Get Information From the Dog Owner

Try to get the biting dog’s owner’s contact and insurance information after seeking medical care. This ensures you can hold them financially and legally accountable now and in the future. Ask for or capture the following if safely possible:

Ask for Vaccination and Medical History

Politely ask the owner for documentation showing the dog’s current rabies vaccine status. Also, request veterinary records detailing any preexisting aggressive behavior or incidents. This evidence helps determine the risk of rabies exposure or if the owner was previously aware of the dog’s dangerous tendencies.

Request Contact and Insurance Information

Record the owner’s full name, address, phone number, driver’s license number, and auto insurance details if applicable. Insurance may help cover your medical bills, lost wages from work absence, pain and suffering damages, and permanent disability costs.

Take Photos of the Dog if Possible

Discreetly take clear photographs showing the dog’s face, body, and markings from a safe distance. Capture any distinguishing features like coloration, scars, and missing limbs. Photos help authorities locate the animal to verify rabies vaccination status and watch for future aggression complaints.

Consult a Personal Injury Attorney

Contact an experienced dog bite lawyer for advice on your legal rights and representation during financial recovery. A qualified attorney can help you:

Discuss Legal Options

Find out if you have grounds to sue the owner for liability, negligence, or reckless endangerment based on your state’s statutes and the incident details. An attorney advises if litigation is worthwhile and what damages you can pursue given the bite severity, disfigurement, and impact on your life and work.

Send a Demand Letter

Have your lawyer send the dog owner a formal notice requesting reimbursement for specific damages suffered. This starts a paper trail establishing their responsibility and votre efforts seeking reasonable restitution before taking court action.

Negotiate Settlement or File a Claim

If a demand letter brings no satisfactory response, a lawyer can either negotiate an out-of-court injury settlement or file a dog bite lawsuit seeking a court judgment ordering damage repayment. An attorney increases the likelihood of financial recovery for current and future medical bills, lost pay, rehabilitation costs and pain and suffering.

Get Testing and Follow Up Treatment

Make sure to complete all recommended medical care and laboratory testing after the bite to protect your health. Follow doctor’s orders for additional treatment which may include:

Get Treated for Rabies Exposure

If the dog cannot be located to verify current rabies vaccine status, you will need the post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) rabies treatment series. This involves one dose of rabies immune globulin and four doses of rabies vaccine over 14 days to prevent the virus from infecting your nervous system. Without PEP, rabies is nearly always fatal once clinical symptoms start.

Visit a Specialist if the Wound is Severe

For major torn muscles, tendons, nerves or other deep wounds, you may get referred to a hand surgeon, plastic surgeon or orthopedic trauma specialist for advanced repair procedures. This preserves limb function and mobility which is critical for preventing permanent disability after severe bites. Follow their post-op and therapy instructions closely.

Complete Prescribed Antibiotic Treatment

Take all antibiotics given by the prescribing physician fully and exactly as directed. Skipping doses or stopping early allows residual bacteria to proliferate, risking hard-to-treat wound infections that cause increased scar tissue and reduced mobility if not cleared promptly with additional drugs. Prevent setbacks by finishing your full antibiotic course.

Practice Self-Care During Recovery

While your bite heals, be diligent about at-home care to prevent complications like infected sutures, disease exposure or psychological trauma that could worsen recovery. Make sure to:

Keep the Wound Clean

Check the injury daily, change dressings as directed and properly clean the site each time to prevent infected sutures or wound breakdown. Report any worrisome signs like increasing redness, swelling, or pus to your physician promptly for treatment before a major infection develops. Don’t take chances with bite wounds.

Use Pain Relievers if Needed

Utilize over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to remain comfortable while severe bite damage mends. Avoid pain interference with essential functions like work, school activities, and sleep. Report inadequate pain control to your doctor right away for stronger prescribed medications if required.

Talk to a Therapist if Struggling

Seek counseling with a trauma specialist if you have ongoing fear, anxiety, sleep troubles, or flashbacks from the event. A qualified behavioral therapist teaches coping strategies for post-bite post-traumatic stress management through talk therapy and mindfulness practices to lessen psychological suffering. Getting help prevents years of crippling phobias or emotional anguish.

Be Prepared if It Happens Again

Sadly, past dog bites raise the odds of future occurrences. Be proactive about prevention and make sure to:

Carry Pepper Spray When Out Walking

Always carry dog or bear pepper spray when exercising, doing yard work or taking out trash where unexpected dog encounters occur. Successfully repelling another aggressive animal prevents injuries and gives time to safely retreat and call for help.

Memorize Steps On What to Do

Etch emergency bite care instructions into your memory in case of another incident. Quick recall and action increase timely medical intervention to minimize disfigurement and permanent disability for optimal recovery prospects.

Remain Calm and Move Slowly

If approached or attacked by an unfamiliar dog, freeze in place rather than running or flailing which stimulates chasing and biting instincts. Speak softly and stand still or back away slowly. Sudden movements may provoke rather than avoid harm.

Taking quick and dedicated action improves the chances of full healing and just compensation after suffering a dog bite injury. Prioritize medical care, hold owners accountable, complete treatment, practice self-care and prepare for potential future incidents by utilizing this comprehensive response guide. Follow these steps to effectively handle dog bite trauma for the best possible physical and financial outcome.


Being the innocent victim of an unexpected dog bite brings pain, anxiety, and often financial hardship or permanent impacts on health and lifestyle. Protect yourself by immediately treating the bite, reporting every skin-breaking incident to authorities, holding owners responsible for injury costs, and being ready for potential future situations through vigilance and preparedness planning. Stay safe from harm while ensuring appropriate owner and animal accountability by utilizing this complete guide on what to do when bitten by someone else’s dog in Tampa Bay. Handling attacks properly minimizes suffering and long-term detriments to your well-being.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog bite accident in Tampa, call the experienced Tampa accident attorney at the Law Offices of Christopher DeBari today at (727) 656-7852 for a free consultation. They have the knowledge and resources to help you obtain full compensation. Don’t delay – call today.


What is the first thing to do after a dog bite?

Seek prompt medical attention to treat the wound and determine if sutures, intravenous antibiotics, or surgery are needed based on bite depth and location. Infection risk is high with dog bites.

Do most insurance policies cover dog bite claims?

Homeowner’s or renter’s liability insurance often covers dog bite injury claims, as do some homeowner’s and umbrella policies. But coverage can vary, so check your policies or consult an attorney.

What qualifies a dog as dangerous or vicious?

States and cities have various definitions of dangerous or vicious dogs. Typically it involves a demonstrated severe and unprovoked bite tendency, often shown by multiple past attacks causing significant injury.

What damages can I seek if bitten?

Typical dog bite damages include current and future medical bills, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering awards, bite-related property damage, and punitive sums if gross owner negligence is proven.

Can I still file a claim after settling with an insurance provider?

Settling with an insurance company after a dog bite usually forfeits your right to seek additional legal compensation later on for the same incident. An attorney like CDB Injury Law can advise before signing any release forms.

Chris Debari

Chris Debari

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