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Important dog bite facts Californians should know

Dogs. Often considered to be man's best friend, these muscular, four-legged animals can quickly turn into man's worst nightmare given the right -- or wrong -- circumstances. While a number of breeds are considered more aggressive or dangerous than others -- pit bulls and rottweilers taking the top two slots -- any breed of dog can bite a human. Knowing your risks though may help you avoid a potentially fatal encounter though down the road.

According to recent statistics, more than 4 million Americans receive a dog bite every year with an estimated one out of five needing medical treatment for an injury. In 2013 alone, 32 people were killed because of dog-bite related injuries. Children age 7 and under are most susceptible, accounting for roughly 56 percent of dog-bite fatalities in that year.

Dogs may choose to attack or bite a human for a number of reasons. Getting too close to them while they are feeding, playing too roughly or even walking aggressively toward them are all things that can result in an attack and a potential injury. And while this can happen with strays, experts say that you are more likely to get bitten by a dog you know than one you don't.

It's important for our readers to know that dog owners can be held liable for their animal's actions, even if they bite a person outside of the owner's property. Depending on the laws in your area, fines may be assessed or more serious penalties depending on the circumstances of the incident.

There is also the legal element as well. If the victim's injuries are severe enough or the bite results in death, the owner may be held liable in a civil lawsuit. Depending on how a judge rules in the case, a dog owner may have to pay compensation to the victim or the victim's family.

Source: Dogbites.org, "2013 dog bite fatalities," Accessed Aug. 15, 2014 WebMD, "Dog Bites," Accessed Aug. 15, 2014

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