West Virginia Dog Bite Statistics

We’ve all heard the phrase “Man’s Best Friend” when referring to our furry family members, and with nearly 90 million dogs in the United States in 62 million households, it’s no wonder the phrase has stuck around as long as it has.

However, not all dogs are friendly all of the time. Dog bites happen every day, usually from pets who have never shown aggression or an inclination to bite up to that point.

In this post, we’ll dive in West Virginia dog bite statistics and cover general information about the dangers associated with attacks and corresponding laws here in the Mountain State that aim to prevent those incidents.

Why Do Dogs Bite?

A 2020 Injury Epidemiology journal article published by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) detailed how 4.5 individuals are bitten by dogs each year in the U.S. At least 19% of those need medical attention and 50% of those victims are children.

With this information in mind, it begs the question: “what causes a dog to bite?”.

Most dogs aren’t aggressive by nature, so when they bite a person, it’s generally due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • They are hurt or sick
  • They feel like their territory is threatened
  • They feel like they have to protect puppies or packs
  • They have been mistreated or bothered
  • They have poor socialization skills

Despite what you may have heard about certain breeds of dogs being more aggressive than others, that is not the case.

It comes down to which bites are reported or require medical attention. Some breeds, such as pit bulls, German Shepherds, or Rottweilers, may be the most frequently reported for bites, but that doesn’t mean they bite any more than other dog breeds. Their jaws are more powerful, leading to more severe injury and more frequently reported emergency room visits.

The Dangers of Dog Attacks

Not only could a bite from a dog leave you with lacerations, puncture wounds, or scars, but dog’s mouths carry a host of bacteria, and some dogs may even be infected with rabies.

Although cases of dogs with rabies are minimal in West Virginia, with only 29 confirmed rabies cases in the entire state in 2022, according to the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources Bureau for Public Health, they can still occur. Rabies is a neurological condition that quickly multiplies within the brain cells, rendering those cells dead within two days to two weeks after exposure.

A more prevalent concern after a dog bite is exposure to the Capnocytophaga bacteria commonly growing in dogs’ mouths. This bacteria causes sepsis to develop and can lead to tissue decay and organ failure unless the victim receives immediate medical attention.

Both rabies and Capnocytophaga are potentially deadly and easily transmittable through just a small scratch. That’s why it’s essential to seek medical attention after any dog bite to ensure you don’t contract either of these dangerous infections.

And, if you do contract either of them, your doctor can catch it right away and begin what could end up being life-saving measures.

West Virginia Dog Bite Laws

Unlike the majority of other states in the U.S., West Virginia has strict liability laws for dog bites only in instances where the dog was allowed to roam free in a public place, per WV code 19-20-13. In cases where a dog was on a leash or the owner’s property, the dog owner may not be held liable for any injuries, except in the instance where they knew or should have known that their dog was aggressive or prone to attacking or biting.

In addition to our state’s limited liability laws regarding dogs, several individual cities have municipal codes regarding how many dogs are allowed on a property, how dogs should or shouldn’t be confined, or prohibiting individuals from keeping dangerous dogs. For example, the City of South Charleston has municipal code 505.11 in place. It prohibits anyone from keeping dangerous dogs on a leash, rope, or chain outside of a pen or kennel unless its owner has command over the dog.

We can’t predict whether a dog will bite or not based on breed alone. Even the sweetest, best-trained dog can bite, which is why it’s so important to maintain awareness around dogs and pay particular attention to their body language.

Actions you make that you may think are perfectly fine could end up causing a dog to react poorly and lead to you being bitten or otherwise injured.

In the unfortunate instance that you have been bitten by a dog on someone else’s property, our legal team at Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, is here to help you.