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Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Cyclists should always know what to do and how to react to encounters with dogs

Cyclists should always know what to do and how to react to encounters with dogs
By:  Michael Lander

Many cyclists love dogs, but having dogs chase after you is often a
dangerous proposition for both.  Cyclists have a legal recourse for
irresponsible pet owners who do not maintain control of their
dog and who do not keep a leash on them when they are outside.

Dogs are often referred to as “man’s best friend,” but for cyclists, they can be one of their worst nightmares.

Whether you’re a dog-lover or not, and many of us are, having a dog chase you, run in front of you, or even try to bite or attack you, can be one of several potential hazards that cyclists would prefer to never have to face.

Should you ever have one of these encounters with one or more dogs, during a bike ride in the Memphis area, there are a few simple things that might help to keep you safe and may minimize some of the risks of getting seriously injured.

As difficult as it might be, when you have a dog that tears out after you, it is very important not to freak-out or to over-react to the situation.

Try, if you can, to remain calm, but to quickly get away from the threat that the dog poses to you.  Try to do this without swerving into traffic or running into other cyclists who may be riding along with you.

If you are with other cyclists, alert them to the presence of a dog and let them know what evasive actions, if any, that you are taking.

For the most part, dogs may be much more interested in just chasing you than actually getting a piece of you, but you never know what they will do if they ever catch up to you so you have to always assume the worst.  With that, you need to not only make every attempt to get away, but to try and keep the dog from running out in front of you where a collision might become unavoidable.

Sometimes, if you're lucky, you will be able to get a dog to stop in its tracks by just yelling at it and telling it, “no,” as you might do with your own dog.  If nothing else, by doing this, it might get the dog’s owner attention who may then be able to get their dog to come back to them. 

Not all cyclists have a problem with dogs while they're
out on a bike ride and some even find a way to bring
their dog with them whenever they ride.

Oftentimes, just bearing down and peddling as fast as you can will usually do the trick in helping you get away, but that may not always work if the dog or dogs are faster than you are.  In those cases, you may be forced to take one or more defensive actions to deter a more aggressive dog from going after you.

As a last resort, for dogs that are way too close for comfort, you may want to consider dousing them with a little pepper spray or, if nothing else, spraying them with some water from your water bottle.

If you are unable to outrun or get away from a dog, you will want to position your bike between you and the dog as a way to separate yourself from it.  If necessary, you may have to thrust your bike toward the dog and even possibly hit it with your bike in order to keep it away from you.

After you are safely away from a dog that has either charged at you or attacked you, you will want to report the incident to Memphis City Police.  Provide them with as much information as possible about the incident so that they can file a police report.  It is also important to contact the owner, if possible, to let them know exactly what happened. 

When talking with police, be sure to tell them when and where the incident with the dog occurred and the details surrounding it.  If you know, give them the dog owner’s name and address and their contact information.  You will also want to give them the names of any witnesses and cyclists who were with you when this took place.

It is absolutely important not to brush off any incident with a dog or to just let go like nothing happened.  A dog that does this will be a threat to others and you should always report it to the police.

If you suffered any injuries and/or any damage to your bike from an encounter with a dog, you will want to contact a personal injury lawyer since you may be entitled to some amount of compensation from it.  

For many of us, we love our pets and they are often a big part
of our lives.  Trey and Cary Tucker like to bring their dog,
Emory, with them on their shorter bike rides so that they
can all enjoy the outdoors together.

If you talk with a lawyer, they will want to know what injuries you sustained and what damage that you specifically had to your bicycle.  They will also want to know about your insurance policy, whether or not you had previous run-ins with the dog, what defensive actions that you took, and whether or not you have a video of it.  Having a video can be especially helpful if your case ever has to go to court.

When looking for a lawyer, be sure that you find one who has experience in working cases that have involved cycling-related injuries or death and, for those, Amy Benner Johnson may be one of the best attorneys in the State of Tennessee to contact.  She is located in Knoxville and is a cyclist herself who has worked many cases for cyclists and their families when a cyclist has either been injured or who has died as a result from incidents involving dogs, unsafe road conditions, or negligent and hostile drivers.

As a cyclist, you should also protect yourself by knowing as much as you can about Tennessee State law, at least as it applies to cycling.  Tennessee is a strict liability state for dog bites that occur when a dog is not under reasonable control and is running around at large. 

The state also has a leash law that requires that dogs must be on a leash at all times and are under reasonable control.

Cyclists should also contact Memphis Animal Services/Control when owners fail to keep their pets under control.  A pet owner is almost always liable for anything that their dog does, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that a cyclist, under some circumstances, may be completely exonerated from some degree of liability if they swerve into traffic and cause an accident or if they intentionally retaliate and unnecessarily maim or kill a dog. 

By just taking a common-sense approach to the situation, and reacting to it appropriately, every cyclist should be able to reduce their chances of being hurt or having their bike tore up from an encounter with a dog.

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