We all know that a driver who is involved in a motor vehicle collision (with another vehicle or a pedestrian) is required to exchange contact information with other drivers. In some states, the same rules apply to people who own or have custody of an animal that bites a person. Specifically, if the owner or custodian of the animal knows or has reason to know that it bit another person, the owner or custodian is required to provide the person, within a specific time frame, with his name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal. See, for example, California Penal Code section 398(a):
398. (a) If a person owning or having custody or control of an animal knows, or has reason to know, that the animal bit another person, he or she shall, as soon as is practicable, but no later than 48 hours thereafter, provide the other person with his or her name, address, telephone number, and the name and license tag number of the animal who bit the other person. If the person with custody or control of the animal at the time the bite occurs is a minor, he or she shall instead provide identification or contact information of an adult owner or responsible party. If the animal is required by law to be vaccinated against rabies, the person owning or having custody or control of the animal shall, within 48 hours of the bite, provide the other person with information regarding the status of the animal’ s vaccinations. Violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars ($100).
Every state should enact such a law. Frequently I receive email from dog bite victims who cannot identify the attacking dog or its owner. They face the pain of rabies injections plus the injustice of bearing the entire burden of the injury, meaning not only the pain and disability but also the expenses of treatment and the loss of income from work. Dog ownership is a privilege, and responsibility is morally and legally required. That begins with stepping forward and admitting that the dog was yours.