News Column

Dog Bites Man -- and Lots of Others, Too

May 16, 2013

Staff Reports --

Any dog can bite, no matter how sweet and loyal. However, dog bites can be prevented.
Any dog can bite, no matter how sweet and loyal. However, dog bites can be prevented.

Dogs are loveable and loyal, but they're still animals. Any dog can bite -- 4.7 million times a year in the U.S., according to State Farm.

The insurance company paid out more than 3,600 dog bite claims to the tune of $108 million in 2012. That was only a slight decrease over the year prior, when it paid out $109 million for 3,750 claims, hence its interest in National Dog Bit Prevention Week.

The event runs May 19-25 this year, and includes the U.S. Postal Service and American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as participants.

The AVMA estimated the U.S. dog population at 70 million in 2011, down from approximately 72 million in 2006, yet the number of dog bites hasn't decreased.

In the decade ended in 2011, dog bits were the ninth leading cause of accidental injuries to children 5-9 years old, according the Prevent the Bite, a nonprofit organization. The American Academy of Pediatrics, meanwhile, says that more than half of all people bitten by dogs are children.

Letter carriers don't do well either when it comes to dog bites. Some 5,900 postal workers were attacked by dogs in 2012, according to the USPS, up by 274 incidents from the year before.

Preventing dog bites

The American Humane Association offers a free online booklet called Pet Meets Baby that offers tips on introducing a new child to a home with a dog.

Other points to remember:

-- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet. Children are often bitten by a dog in their own household.
-- 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 it feels threatened or teased.
-- Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
-- Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
-- Regular veterinary visits are essential to regulating the health of your dog. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
-- Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog while out on a walk, caution them to wait before petting the dog, giving your pet time to be comfortable with the stranger.

Heredity, training, socialization, the dog's health and how a potential victim behaves all play a role in whether a dog will bite. And, as State Farm points out, any dog can bite, given the right circumstances.

SOURCE State Farm

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