Of the 4.7 million Americans victimized annually by dog bites, more than half are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Veterinarians, the U.S. Postal Service, the medical community and the insurance industry are working together to educate the public that dog bites are preventable.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the Postal Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, the Insurance Information Institute and Prevent the Bite are driving home the message that dog bites are a nationwide issue and that education can help prevent dog bites to people of all ages.
“Children between the ages of five and nine years old, engaged in everyday activities with their own or a neighbor’s dog, are the most frequent victims of dog bites,” said AVMA President Dr. René Carlson. “We all want to protect our children from dog bites, and one of the best ways to do that is by properly training and socializing our dogs.”
The AVMA offers the following tips:
How to Avoid Being Bitten
• Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
• Don’t run past a dog. The dog’s natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
• If a dog threatens you, don’t scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
• Don’t approach a strange dog, especially one that’s tethered or confined.
• Don’t bother a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
• People choosing to pet dogs should obtain permission from the owner first and always let a dog see and sniff them before petting the animal.
• If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
• If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
How to be a Responsible Dog Owner
• Obedience training can teach dogs proper behavior and help owners control their dogs.
• When letter carriers and others who are not familiar with your dog come to your home, keep your dog inside, away from the door in another room.
• Dogs can be protective of their territory and may interpret the actions of others as a threat.
• Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to roam and to bite.
• Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.
“Given the right circumstances, any dog can bite,” said Dr. Carlson. “By acting responsibly, owners not only reduce dog bite injuries, but also enhance the relationship they have with their dog.”