Every year more than 4.5 million Americans, more than half of them children, are bitten by dogs. As part of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition, we encourage adults to teach children how to avoid dog bites and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility.
“Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “But it’s up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our kids, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites.”
Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care and/or a lack of socialization. All dogs, even well trained gentle dogs, are capable of biting when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Thus, even when a bite is superficial or classified as “provoked,” dogs may be abandoned or euthanized. Therefore, it’s vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.
“A dog bite can have a profound effect on the dog’s family, especially the children, who, if the dog is euthanized, might have to cope with loss for the first time,” said Dr. Amy McCullough, American Humane Association’s National Director of Humane Research and Therapy™, “In my work as a registered therapy dog handler, I teach children the proper ways to approach a dog so they can avoid being bitten. All dog owners everywhere need to make sure they know the steps they can take to prevent their dog from biting someone.”
To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, we offers the following suggestions:
Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without an owner, and always ask for permission before petting the dog.
Never approach an injured animal – find an adult who can get the help s/he needs
Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies.
Don’t poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog.
For Dog Owners:
Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog’s health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog, caution them to wait before petting the dog; give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.
We also offer a free online booklet available for families with children called “Pet Meets Baby,” providing valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet – or a new pet into a home with a child: http://www.americanhumane.org/interaction/programs/humane-education/pet-meets-baby.html.
Consider these statistics and tips provided by National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition members:
The American Veterinary Medical Association says that after children, senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. During National Dog Bite Prevention Week®, the AVMA highlights the most recent findings in the veterinary behavior field, introduces new educational programs for pet owners of all ages. Joining with its coalition partners, the AVMA urges the public to respect and better understand a dog’s behavior and reminds dog owner’s to provide a safe, happy environment for both people and dogs. They have provided much useful information at this link.
Renowned dog trainer and Coalition member Victoria Stilwell says that observing a dog’s body language is important, because dog owners and those around dogs must know when a dog is uncomfortable in a situation, because that could lead to bites. She offers up a bevy of tips on her website.
In 2015, State Farm paid more than $118 million as a result of 3,181 dog-related injury claims. Though the number of paid claims decreased nearly 10 percent from 2014, the amount paid by State Farm did increase by more than 3 percent, indicating an increase in the severity of incidents and rising medical and legal costs associated with dog-related injuries. Of the top 10 states for dog bite claims, only one – Illinois – saw an increase in the number of paid claims in 2015. California, Illinois, and Texas represent the top three states for paid dog bite claims by State Farm.
The Insurance Information Institute says the number of dog bite claims nationwide is decreasing every year, but the amounts paid are increasing. In 2015, 15,352 claims were paid for a total of $571 million. The average cost per claim is more than $37,000, an increase of 16 percent from 2014 to 2015.
The U.S. Postal Service reports that attacks on its carriers, however, have increased, which they attribute to last year’s increase of package deliveries by a half-billion. In 2015, there were 6,549 attacks, up 782 from the year before. Houston is the top market, with 77 reported attacks on postal employees last year. San Diego and Cleveland tied for second with 58 attacks while Chicago and Dallas tied for third with 57 attacks.
Many dogs are territorial and may view letter carriers as a threat. Because many of these deliveries take place at a customer’s door, the U.S. Postal Service is asking Americans to “close the door on dog attacks” by placing their pets in a separate room with a closed door to decrease the likelihood of an attack.
The American Academy of Pediatrics says if you’re threatened by a dog, remain calm. Avoid eye contact. Stand still until the dog leaves or back away slowly. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands. If a dog bites your child, clean small wounds with soap and water and seek medical attention for larger wounds. Contact the dog’s veterinarian to check vaccination records.