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Wisconsin Dog Bite Laws: 5 Steps to Take if You’ve Been Injured by a Dog in Wisconsin

Photo of a brown dog with text that says, "There are 4.5 million dog bite incidents in the U.S. each year."

Dogs. Some are big, some are small, some have fluffy coats, others have coarse. Some give kisses (AKA licks) to everyone they see, and others are one-person-pups (maybe the introverts of the dog world?). Whether you have one in your home or not, you likely encounter a dog frequently.

Dogs are a popular pet and companion animal. So popular, in fact, that nearly 40% of households in the U.S. own one or more dogs. That’s more than 76 million dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. In Wisconsin, 34% of households own dogs. With 5.9 million people in Wisconsin and at least one furry family member in dog-owning households, that’s nearly 2 million dogs in Wisconsin!

Unfortunately, dogs aren’t all bark and no bite… sometimes, despite their owner’s best efforts and training. Each year, more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs in the U.S. and 800,000 require medical treatment.

Keep reading to learn about Wisconsin dog bite laws and what to do if you’re bitten by a dog.

What to do if you are bitten by a dog: 5 steps to take

1. Call the police or 911. If you or someone you are with is seriously injured by a dog, call 911 immediately for medical assistance. You or your loved one will get the treatment they need, and responding officers (including law enforcement and animal control) can restrain the dog if the owner is unable to do so.

2. Gather information from the dog owner. After the dog is restrained and you are able to do so, ask the dog owner for their name, address and contact information. You’ll also want to note the size, color and breed of dog, as well as the dog’s name. It is also helpful to take photos of the scene and your injuries, which can be helpful for the police report, as well as if you plan to seek compensation for you dog bite injuries.

3. Get medical attention. If you do not need an ambulance or are not treated by emergency medical professionals at the scene, it is still a good idea to seek medical treatment from an urgent care or emergency room as soon as possible. This will help not only ensure you receive proper care as soon as possible, but it will also help you document the extent of your injuries.

While the puncture wound or scratches may not seem to be a big deal, a medical professional can treat your injuries to help protect against (or identify) infections, tetanus, rabies, scarring and more.

4. Let local animal control know. If police were not called to the scene, be sure to contact local animal control officials to report the dog bite incident. If police were on scene, verify that they are passing details on to animal control. When you do connect with animal control, keep the details to a minimum—stick to the facts and don’t exaggerate. If the dog is up-to-date on its rabies vaccination, it will need to quarantine at home for 10 days to be watched for any signs of the disease. If it is not vaccinated, the dog will need to quarantine at an isolation facility identified by animal control, which may include a veterinary clinic or animal shelter).

5. Get a Wisconsin dog bite attorney. You should cooperate with law enforcement and be sure to report the incident to animal control, but don’t go too in-depth with the details until after you have talked to the personal injury attorneys at Di Renzo & Bomier about your dog bite injury.

Do you have to report a dog bite in Wisconsin?

Yes, if the dog bite or scratch breaks or punctures skin, you need to report it to local animal control officials (which may be your local law enforcement, public health department or animal shelter, depending on where you live). If you or someone you are with is seriously injured by a dog, call 911 immediately.

If you are bitten by a dog, but it does not puncture your skin or leave a mark, you do not need to report the incident, but you may choose to do so if you feel the dog may be a continued danger to other people.

In Wisconsin, you have up to three years from the date of the incident to report the dog bite to animal control. The dog owner’s liability ranges based on the extent of the incident, but it could be personal injury to criminal, with potential charges including reckless endangerment and homicide (if a dog bite/attack leads to the victim dying).

Who Pays for Medical Bills After a Dog Bite in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is a strict liability state, which means even if the dog owner did their best to prevent the injury, they are still responsible for injuries caused by their dog.

For the first dog bite incident, the dog owner is responsible for the full amount of damages caused by the dog, as well as a fine that can range from $50 to $2,500. For the second incident, the liability and penalties double.

It is also not illegal to taunt a dog. This means that if you had your dog on a leash or your dog was in your own home and someone provoked or attacked your dog, causing your dog to attack, you are held liable for any injuries your dog causes. However, if the person who is bitten is found negligent (contributory negligent), they may not be able to seek compensation for their dog bite injuries. If they are found to be less than 51% liable, they can seek compensation. The amount they are awarded may be reduced based on the percentage they are considered at fault.

When should I talk to an attorney?

If you’ve been injured by a dog, talk to a lawyer at Di Renzo & Bomier as soon as possible after you have received medical attention.

It is important that you don’t try to come to an agreement with the dog owner on your own. Focus on collecting their contact information.

As a reminder, we don’t get paid unless you do by way of a settlement, so if you are worried about the cost of working with a personal injury lawyer about your dog bite injuries, don’t be! We offer a free consultation for your dog bite claim.

Being injured by a dog can be scary. Let us take some of the worry and unknowns off your plate when you work with the experienced dog bite lawyers at Di Renzo & Bomier. We help people injured by dog bites in Neenah, Appleton, Green Bay and across Northeast Wisconsin, and offer a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case. Call (800) 725-8464 or fill out our online form to schedule an appointment.

The content of this blog was prepared by Law Offices of Di Renzo & Bomier, LLC for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to solicit business or provide legal advice. Laws differ by jurisdiction, and the information in this blog may not apply to you. You should seek the assistance of an attorney licensed to practice in your state before taking any action. Using this blog site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Law Offices of Di Renzo & Bomier, LLC.

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