Guest Blog Post: Preventing Dog Bites by Recognizing Their Warning Signs

Richard Cross is the guest blogger and the founder of

Richard Cross, the guest blogger, is the founder of

Richard Cross, our guest blogger, is the founder of, which was founded in 2008 to help dog owners learn more about dog behavior, training, health, and more.

His advice here about recognizing dogs’ body language and their warning signs will help Twin Tiers residents recognize the different signs of behavior so they can remain safe.

I have represented many dog-bite and dog-attack victims and I can tell you that dog attack cases are difficult for everyone involved– the victim of the attack, the family of the victim and the dog owner.  

It is always the dog owner’s responsibility and legal obligation to prevent a dog attack but the advice below is good advice for everyone to keep in mind when in the presence of dogs.

Richard’s blog post:

Dog bites are more common in the United States than many people realize.

A CDC study found that from 2001 to 2003, there were an estimated 4.5 million bite victims each year. While many of these were minor bites, almost 20 percent of the victims required some medical attention.

For this reason, it’s important for both owners and members of the public to understand basic dog body language. This can reduce the chance of bites, which often have tragic consequences for both the animal and victim.

Common Canine Warning Signs

Most people know when a dog is showing signs of aggression. Raised hackles, bared teeth, and growling are easy to recognize as signals a dog doesn’t want to be approached. Common signs of submission, such as rolling over or crawling, are also easy to spot.

These are the most extreme examples of body language, though. Dogs have a variety of other ways to communicate discomfort or anxiety, such as:

  • Giving “Whale Eye” by holding eye contact, turning the face away, and exposing the eye whites.
  • Licking their lips when there is no food around.
  • Turning away from the person or trying to walk away.
  • Yawning while turning away.
  • Shaking off without being wet.

Dogs showing these signals aren’t likely to attack unless provoked, but may bite if they feel trapped. Unfortunately, many people miss the signals and continue to approach.

It’s also vital to understand that a wagging tail doesn’t always mean a happy dog. Dogs can wag their tails when defensive, submissive or aggressive.

How to Approach a Dog

The most important rule is to never approach a strange dog without permission from the owner. Dogs of any size and breed can bite, so you can’t judge temperament based on appearance alone.

The owner will know how their dog usually reacts to strangers and whether it’s safe to interact.

Once given permission, many people get into the dog’s “space” and immediately start stroking the dog on the head. This is the wrong way to greet a dog and a common cause of bites.

When you first approach a dog, hold out your fist and allow the dog to sniff it. This protects the fingers from a bite, while giving the dog a chance to signal whether he’s happy to interact.

A dog that’s happy to be stroked will continue looking at the fist or give it a lick. At this stage, it’s probably safe to stroke the dog on the neck or shoulders, but avoid reaching over the head. If the dog looks away from the fist or tries to walk away, this means he doesn’t want to interact and you should leave the dog alone.

Also: Never try to stroke a dog that’s alone in a public place, such as tied up outside a store or in a park. Just because the owner has left the dog in an accessible place doesn’t mean it is safe to approach.

More information about preventing dog bites is available here.


Thanks for reading,


James Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and



Should New York State Leash Dangerous Pit Bulls And Their Owners?

Should New York State follow Maryland's lead and crack down on pit bulls and their owners?

Another state has cracked down on pit bulls. Should New York State do the same?

A new ruling by the Maryland Court of Appeals declares pit bulls as a breed are “inherently dangerous,” and the owner of a pit bull or one that has been cross bred that attacks a person or another animal is liable for damages. In addition, any landlord who rents to a pit bull owner is liable as well.

In New York State, the courts have said the exact opposite — there are no inherently dangerous breeds.  Should there be, though?  A disproportionate number of our dog bite cases involve pit bulls, but I have also handled dog bites involving one of the most docile of breeds – a golden retriever!

Pit Bulls make good scape goats.  Just check news across the country on any given day and you will see report after report of pit bull attacks.

Just in the last few days:

A pit bull was shot to death by police after it attacked a woman who was walking her dog in Long Beach, Calif.

The pit bull also attacked two bystanders who tried to help the woman.

Police tried to stun the dog using a Taser gun, but it did not work, so the officers had to shoot and kill the dog!

A 2-year-old pit bull attacked a 7-year-old boy in a back yard in Charlotte, N.C., seriously injuring the boy. The boy needed 20 stitches for his wounds. Authorities will decide this week whether to euthanize the dog.

A Pottsville, Pa., couple were hospitalized after being attacked by their own dogs, which authorities said were likely pit bulls. The dogs were first fighting between themselves, then  turned on the owners.

Are pit bulls so dangerous that their owners and landlords should be strictly liable for damage a member of that breed causes even if that particular animal has never been vicious in the past?  It’s hard to say without a hard look at all the data.  One thing we know for sure is that a responsible owner can minimize the risk of an attack by any breed of dog by properly socializing, rearing, training and restraining the dog.  Conversely, a dog owner who fails to do these things, or even worse, encourages protective and aggressive behavior towards people and other animals, has a much greater risk of injuring someone else.

What do you think?  Are pit bulls inherently dangerous?  Are they simply the victim of bad press?  Let us know what you think!

Thanks for reading,


Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Dog Bite Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]




NY Attorney Comments on Local Dog Bites and Dog Attacks

On a beautiful afternoon, like many in the Twin Tiers, I can certainly see the appeal of wandering around downtown Ithaca and shopping in The Commons. What I often do not factor into this idyllic scene, however, is the danger of dogs.

Authorities in Ithaca are seeking a puppy after it bit a man in the Ithaca Commons. What is especially amazing to me about this incident is that the dog was on a leash and with its owner. The victim reached down to pet the dog and was then bitten.

This incident is only one of several recent dog bites in Ithaca, including incidents in October and December.

Our firm has represented many victims of dog attack and bite cases, so we know the permanent physical and emotional scars that can be left after these frightening incidents.

In a world in which half a million people bit by dogs last year required hospitalization, these bites are a reminder of the dangers that even friendly-looking dogs can pose.

These bites are also a reminder to socialize your dogs, especially when they are between the ages of 8-12 weeks. While many of us at Ziff love animals ourselves, it is important to stay safe and recognize the potentially dangerous nature of dogs.

If you or someone you know has a question about dog attacks or bites, please call us at 1-800-ZIFFLAW or email us at [email protected]. We would be happy to talk to you about your legal rights and options and try to answer your questions.  

Thanks, Christina

Christina Bruner Sonsire, Esq.
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, New York 14902-1338
[email protected]
Office: 607.733.8866
Toll-Free: 800.ZIFFLAW (943.3529)

Insurance Companies Put Bite On Dog Owners, Says NY Dog Attack Lawyer


Has your dog been excluded from your homeowners' insurance?

New York State dog owners are going to be mad when they realize what homeowners’ insurance carriers have done.

In recent years, more carriers have quietly slipped “dog exclusions” into their insurance policies. Many policy holders have not noticed this stunning change which is certainly understandable because insurance policies are notorious for tons of incomprehensible, fine print.

These “exclusions” means that these homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover any injury caused by dogs, including bites.

This NY dog bite lawyer and other lawyers across the state noticed the changes were unleashed on unwitting homeowners, including many in the Elmira-Corning area, in the last few years.

At first, I noticed only some dog breeds were left uncovered, such as pit bulls, who were considered among the most aggressive. But now I am seeing exclusions for ALL DOGS, regardless of the breed.

If you’re a homeowner with a dog, it’s time to unleash your outrage, because you’re being ripped off!

Here is the bad news: One-third of all injury claims against homeowners are because of dog bites, BUT when insurance companies exclude coverage, they are NOT GIVING YOU a one-third discount!

What a deal for the insurance carriers! They’ll deny they are curbing your dog to roll up more profits, and say they are just trying to keep your premiums down!

Don’t bellieve it!

These exclusions are bad for dog-bite victims, too. Let’s say you have the misfortune of getting mauled by a poor dog owner with an insurance exclusion. If that happens, it is very possible you will get no compensation for your suffering!

All homeowners in the Elmira / Corning area, and throughout the Southern Tier, should still shop for insurance that covers dog bites. They are still available, and it’s the right thing to do.

And it should not cost you any extra money.

Thanks for reading.


James B. Reed
NY & PA Dog Bite Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and