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Dog Bites

Prevent Your Dog From Biting

Dog bites can lead to expensive insurance claims and lawsuits.

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Male dogs roam and are more likely to engage in aggressive behavior than neutered dogs. Female dogs can be aggressive during stages of their reproductive cycles.
  • Leash your dog (as required by law) to prevent him/her from approaching other dogs and people. Some people are afraid of dogs. Other dogs may not be as well trained as yours.
  • Some dogs bite when they feel afraid, so socialize your dog. Teach him/her how to interact with new dogs, adults, and children; so he/she won’t feel afraid in new situations.
  • Supervise your dog outside. Dogs can escape or get hurt when unattended.
  • Keep your dog healthy. Well-fed and exercised dogs are less likely to have behavior problems, including biting.

Protect Children

Teach children to tell an adult when they see a strange dog.

  • Don’t leave young children alone with dogs, even dogs they know. 
  • Children move quickly and like to hug dogs. Dogs may chase children, and may be afraid of being held tightly and may bite.
  • Many children are bitten by dogs that are left outside unattended. Children are attracted to dogs and will approach them. Teach children not to approach a dog unless they are with an adult they know.
  • Teach children to tell an adult when they have been bitten or scratched by an animal.

If Your Dog Bites

  • Secure and control your dog. The victim may be afraid of your dog and your dog may be excited.
  • Provide your name and phone number for the victim. You may be asked for proof of your dog’s vaccinations. You can get this from your dog’s veterinarian.
  • Report the incident. Call animal control to report all animal bites at (202) 576-6664.

"What Is Quarantine?"

Quarantine does not mean your dog will be taken from you or killed.

The District will require you to keep your dog under quarantine by keeping him/her to your property for 10 days.  If your dog remains healthy during the quarantine, the bite victim will not have to have rabies shots and your dog will be released from quarantine.  If your dog becomes sick or is lost, notify animal control right away.  Because of strict procedures, no one has contracted rabies from a dog bite in the US since 1938.

In the eyes of the law, you are responsible for any damage done by your dog.

*The number of days an animal is quarantined can depend on what the animal bites and whether or not it is current on vaccinations.

If You Are Bitten

  • Don’t risk additional injury!
  • Ask for the dog owner’s name and telephone number and be prepared to describe the dog.
  • Immediately wash the wound for several minutes with plenty of soap and water.
  • Report the bite to animal control.
  • Seek medical attention from your doctor or nearest emergency facility.
  • If you have a chronic health problem (HIV positive, organ transplant, spleen removal, diabetes, etc.), you are at increased risk for complications from animal bites. Call your doctor immediately.

Animal Bite Facts

  • The Rabies virus can be transmitted from an animal to a person. Contact the DC Department of Health for advice when contact with an animal results in broken skin.
  • 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year.
  • Owned dogs on their owner’s property are responsible for the majority of dog bites. Eighty-five percent of bites occur at the owner’s home.
  • By age 11, most children have been bitten by a dog known to them.

Bite Prevention

Any dog can bite. Dogs are most likely to bite when they feel threatened.

  • Never, pull, hit, or tease dogs.
  • Never disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping or playing with a toy.
  • Never disturb a mother dog with puppies.
  • Never offer your hand for a dog to smell, or reach toward a person with a dog. Dogs can feel threatened by a stranger’s hand moving toward them.
  • Use caution when playing tug of war, chase, or wrestling games with a dog.

If You Feel Threatened by a Dog

  • Remain calm. Avoid yelling.
  • Stand still without turning or running.
  • Avoid eye contact with the dog.
  • Calmly back away when the dog leaves.
  • If you fall down, curl into a ball with your hands protecting your head and neck.
  • Report dogs that are running at large to Animal Control or the Police Department.
  • The District of Columbia Dangerous Dog Statutes place restrictions on dogs that have bitten or attacked pets or people without provocation, (§ 8-1901, et.seq).  Educate yourself about the law in your area and talk to legislators about establishing guidelines.


DC Animal Control
(202) 576-6664

Contact TTY: 
Office Hours: 
Monday through Friday 8:15 am – 4:45 pm