In keeping with the spirit of awareness, Dog Bite Prevention Week 2013 is determined to bring to light the importance of responsible pet ownership. The facts are somewhat alarming:

  • Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention.
  • Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children.
  • Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
  • Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.
  • Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims. (Statistics courtesy of The American Veterinary Medical Association) 
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The figures displayed above are statistical proof regarding the need for responsible pet ownership.  Without the proper guidance your four-legged loved one could very easily become a dangerous liability. In a study published earlier this month by State Farm Insurance, one of America’s leading insurers, dog bite-related claims in California (451) amounted to 17.1 million dollars in settlements.

Aggressive or uncontrolled dog behavior hurts everyone involved.  Not only does unruly behavior effect the victim through physical pain, a tiresome rehabilitation process and the emotional scars left from an attack, but it also effects the pet owner who becomes responsible for court fees, medical bills, and litigation expenses. Consequently, poor pet ownership creates a cultural stigma towards certain breeds which can perpetuate fear, misunderstanding, and a disconnection between the pets we love and the communities we live in.

“The most dangerous dogs are dogs that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training and irresponsible ownership,” explains Loretta Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute.

Proper dog bite prevention is a two-part process. It begins with pet owner accountability before shifting into a common sense approach to interacting with animals.

The process of preventing dog aggression and potential bites should begin very early in a canine’s life. Pet owners can reduce the chances of their pet biting a person by socializing their dog and understanding his or her sensitivities and anxiety triggers at a young age. If pet owners observe behavior issues or signs indicating potential aggression, they should work with their veterinarian or with a specialist such as an obedience trainer to resolve the problem. Other considerations include:

• NEVER leave a child unattended with a dog. Even if it’s a family pet. Children are often bitten by a dog in their own household.

• Keep dogs leashed in public. This helps keep control of the dog to prevent confrontations.

• Work one-on-one with a dog to resolve any behavior issues. Talking with a vet, working with a dog one-on-one to resolve behavior issues, and obedience training can help ensure he or she is well-behaved around others.

• Keep pets confined when mail carriers deliver mail. The United States Postal Service recently released the top ten cities where mail carriers are attacked by dogs. San Francisco ranked 5th, with 38 attacks reported in 2012. This number can easily be reduced by confining dogs to a safe location when mail carriers are in the area.

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Any dog could potentially bite, regardless of breed or size. Dogs can become frightened or anxious and act out by biting. It’s important to understand that even the nicest dogs may bite given the right environment. Here are some simple tips provided by the America n Veterinary Medical Association that could help prevent a dog bite:

  • Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things.
  • Never disturb a dog that is caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
  • If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
  • If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
  • If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.

Dog bites should be treated immediately by seeking medical attention. If your pet sustains an animal attack please contact Campus Veterinary Clinic to schedule emergency services.