Some occupations have always carried an inherent risk of getting nipped — or ripped — by a dog’s teeth during the workday. Landscape workers, gutter installers and delivery persons are occasionally attacked by a homeowner’s dog or stray pooch. Likewise, workers who repair appliances, install carpeting or tutor children inside a residence also encounter dog-bite risks. In recent years, however, several factors have contributed to an increased peril of dog bites on the job:

California Law Makes Owners Responsible for Their Dogs

Dog bites can pose serious repercussions, especially deep bites or infected wounds. California law recognizes this gravity by adhering to a strict liability rule for dog bites. Strict liability does not give California canines a free pass even if they have never bitten anyone before. If the victim had a legal right to be on private property where the dog bite occurred, or if it happened in a public space, the animal’s owner is responsible no matter what precautions were taken or how the dog acted in the past.

If the owner has homeowners’ or renters’ insurance, the policy may provide liability coverage for dog bites, and you can file a claim with the insurance company. If the dog bite occurred during your working hours, you could also file a claim with the California Division of Workers’ Compensation.

Prepare for Canine Interactions on the Job

Even if you are comfortable around dogs or perhaps own one yourself, you should have a preventative mindset if you encounter dogs while you work.

Understand the Dog’s Viewpoint

If you work around dogs frequently, it’s good to understand their perspective even if you already enjoy them. Remember these points:

  • Unless you have performed services for the customer before or personally know the family, you are an unfamiliar person to any dog living there.
  • When you enter the client’s property, you are actually invading the dog’s territory.
  • If family members are present, especially young children, the dog may feel the need to protect them.
  • You may bring unfamiliar equipment, odors and noises into the dog’s space when you perform your work.

It is better not to approach the customer’s dog but simply go about your duties. Each dog is different, and you have no way of knowing what may cause anxiety in this particular animal.

Get Directives From Your Supervisor

Whether work duties take you to the properties of customers, or you are employed at a workplace where animals are allowed, check the company’s protocols for working around dogs. For example, if a customer or coworker owns an animal that makes you uneasy, is it in line with company policy to ask that person to confine the pet to an area away from where you are working?

Companies that allow employee pets usually have a policy in place. Even if you won’t be bringing a pet to work yourself, it is helpful to get a copy from human resources and familiarize yourself with it.

Defer to the Homeowner for Assistance With Aggression

If the homeowner or designated representative is out of the room where you’re working and the family dog starts to bark and growl, do not try to handle the situation yourself. Find the person in charge and ask for assistance so you can complete your job.

Likewise, if any issues arise with a coworker’s dog in the workplace, have the courtesy to discuss the situation with the dog’s owner first. You may be able to settle the problem without involving a supervisor.

Take These Steps If a Dog Bites You While Working

If you sustain a dog bite on the job, make immediate medical evaluation and treatment your top priority. Ask the doctor for detailed notes on your injury. If possible, document pertinent details of the incident:

  • Obtain a photo of the injury before treatment.
  • Take a photo of the canine perpetrator and the area where the incident occurred.
  • Get the names and contact information of any witnesses.
  • Notify your employer of the injury.
  • Make a written record of how the incident unfolded as soon as possible.

If your injuries are extensive, ask a coworker or call a family member for help with documentation.

Seek Assistance From a Personal Injury Attorney

Dog bites are not only painful, but they can also be expensive with medical bills and income lost while your injuries heal. At the Law Offices of Brent D. George, we are experienced with personal injury cases, including dog bites acquired on the job. The California statute of limitations for personal injuries is only two years, so call us today at 805-494-8400 for a free initial consultation.