Dog Bite Prevention Week
This May the 14th marks the beginning of dog bite prevention week. I volunteered to write this one because when I was a little kid, maybe 8 yrs old, I got bit by a dog, I’ll never forget it. My friend and I had walked up to a neighbor lady who was walking a basset hound, we stopped and were asking her about the dog (we loooved dogs) and I bent down and sort of leaned in to pet the dog and he jumped up and latched onto my arm (which was tiny! I was a child!) with his teeth. He held on for what seemed like forever and when I wrenched my arm free, the owner laughed and said something like, “he learned how to do that in obedience class.” Tears welling up, I politely excused myself and ran behind my house where I peeled off my jean jacket and examined the wound, which covered about 1/2 of my arm from above the elbow to a little above the wrist and also around the backside. It wasn’t bleeding a lot, just beading up in a couple spots, it was an angry, jagged criss-cross of black and red, which turned purple, bruised, then yellow. I was so scared I was going to get in trouble, I hid the wound from my mother, wearing long sleeves, until it was healed a month later.
Looking back, I find this whole scenario very disturbing. It was 1988 and things were different sure, but I can’t believe the dog’s owner reacted the way she did. I can’t believe I didn’t tell anybody I had a serious dog bite wound. I can’t believe they would teach a dog to lunge and bite like that in an obedience class.
Now I know that to be safe, you should always ask the owner before petting a dog, but what other things should you know about dog bites and dog bite prevention?
- There are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year in the United States.
- Every year, approximately 800,000 dog bites require medical attention.
- In 2011, 31 dog bite related fatalities were reported nationally. A total of 238 dog bite related fatalities have been reported over a 20 year span (1979-1998) involving over 25 breeds. [i]
- 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered. [ii]
- Approximately 71% of dog bites occur on the arms, legs, hands and feet.
- 50% of dog attacks involve children under 12 years old and 70% of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children under 10 years old.
- Unsupervised newborns were 370 times more likely be killed by a dog than an adult.
- Approximately 24% of dog bite deaths involved unrestrained dogs off of their owners’ property.
- Approximately 58% of dog bite deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners’ property.
- Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs.
The most dangerous situations to avoid getting bit by a dog include:
- Leaving an infant or toddler alone with any dog, regardless of whether it is considered an “aggressive” breed.
- Approaching a chained up dog, especially if it is male and has not been neutered.
- Encountering a pack of free roaming dogs. Normally obedient dogs can become aggressive when part of a pack.
- Approaching a vehicle with a dog inside.
- Getting in between two dogs when they are fighting.
Children (and adults) should know:
- Do not pet a dog without him seeing you first (never sneak up on a dog).
- Don’t let your children run loose around a dog’s face. Do not lean in and put your face close to a dog you don’t know.
- Do not tease a dog, especially if it is chained up. Don’t ever hit, kick or slap a dog and don’t let your children pull on his ears or tail.
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, caring for puppies or guarding toys or food.
- If approached by a strange dog, stay very still and do not run. A lot of dog’s have a “chase drive” and will automatically chase after whatever is running.
Dog Owners should know:
- Neutering reduces dog aggression. Un-spayed females in heat are unpredictable. Spay or neuter your dog.
- Socialize and obedience train your dog. Puppies 8 to 16 weeks of age should be exposed to other animals, people and places to grow up well rounded. If you adopted a dog from the shelter, don’t fret! Dogs do wonderful with obedience training at any age. The AKC good citizen test is something I think every dog and owner should do.
- Don’t let your dog run at large but don’t chain them up either. Chaining dogs increases their stress, protectiveness and vulnerability, which increases dog aggression. Fencing is a better option and taking long walks together is good for you and your dog.
Who is responsible if a dog bite occurs?
The dog’s owner is usually responsible for any injuries the dog inflicts, unless the owner is under 18 years old, in which case, the parents or legal guardians of the minor are responsible. A landlord may be held liable if he knew that the dog was dangerous and didn’t do anything about it. If a dangerous dog is on someone else’s property, the property owner could be liable if they act negligible ( i.e.: leaving small children unsupervised with a chained up aggressive dog). Of course, exceptions and circumstances vary by state.
The owner is responsible for all medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and property damage. If the dog owner has been cited in the past and a bite occurs, owners can be responsible for double or triple damages and punitive damages. Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance may cover damage from dog bites.
Penalties vary from state to state and take into account factors like, did the bite break the skin? Has the dog been vaccinated against rabies? Offending biters can be impounded, quarantined and sometimes euthanized, depending on the severity of the bite, state law and the circumstances surrounding it.
As Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” and that definitely applies to dog bites. Be safe out there, and practice dog bite prevention.
Have anything to add about dog bites? Please leave a comment below.