What to do if there is a scuffle at the dog park.
This outline is meant for after the fight/scuffle/altercation is completely broken up and there is no risk for re-engagement between the two dogs.
Start by assessing the situation.
Determine if any people were bitten while breaking up the fight and look for injuries on both dogs. Are the injuries minor or severe? Was it just barking and snarling, did it escalate to wet fur, how about puncture wounds or tooth drags? If either dog is injured badly enough that it needs to be transported to the vet immediately ask a witness to exchange numbers with you and see if they complete the next step for you. Assessing the situation will also require you to determine the level of severity of the incident if two dogs just barked at each other moving forward with the following steps may not be necessary but if one of the dog has puncture wounds or seem seriously injured the following step is critical.
Just like a car crash, when there is a dog-dog altercation dog owners need to exchange information. Both dog owners will benefit from exchanging information and taking photos of damages or lack of damages. Keep in mind that some damages may not be visible right away. In addition this can protect both owners by keeping this as accurate as possible. If vet treatment will need to be sought a summons to court will help the victim obtain restitution for vet or doctor bills, but it will be easier if you have the other person’s information. Without this there maybe nothing you can do to find them later.
If the other dog owner chooses to leave the scene quickly, instead of checking in with you and your dog then try and get the make and model of their car, as well as the license plate, and if possible a photo of owner and dog. Be sure not to put yourself in danger while trying to do this. If the other dog owner is cooperating see if you can get a photo of their driver’s license and their dogs rabies tag. If they’re not comfortable with sharing this information with you see if you can get their full name, date of birth, address and phone number.
Gather as many witness’s information as possible. If there is a pen and paper available see if they can write a quick statement as to what they saw occur be sure they include a full name and phone number. The other part of this step is to gather photos. Be sure to get photos of the other dog, owner, both dogs, any injuries, blood left on soil, dog bites and the location it occurred.
Your final step is to report the incident. If there are any injuries to your dog I highly recommend that you to report the incident to animal control. This will protect you if you do have vet bills to pay. This will also put a record out there if a similar incident occurs with the same dog and owner. Many times you can decide if a ticket is issued or if it’s just a written warning, so don’t feel bad about getting the other dog in trouble this can protect you and your dog. Turn the information you collected over to animal control, but save a copy for your records.
Most animal control agencies can run license plates and find people’s current addresses off of driver’s license numbers or license plates in case if the owner isn’t willing to provide that information to you. The more information you gather the better understanding the police or Animal Control will have of the incident. If they can get a clear picture of the incident they can come up with the best way to move forward. Also, if it moves forward to court the city attorney’s will be well on their way to being able to paint the jury a clear picture of what occurred.
The best choice of all is to prevent this from happening. I normally suggest to clients that they stay away from dog parks. Instead I recommend they have play dates with dogs that they know in a friends big back yard, do supervised play at indoor facilities or get a group of friends together for a group walk. If you do end up at a dog park watch for bullying, always keep a close eye on your dog, and spend time learning about body language before you go. When you are at the dog park leave at the first sign of a dog with poor social skills.