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During National Dog Bite Prevention Week® and All-Year Round American Humane Association Offers Tips to Stay Safe

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WASHINGTON, D.C., May 14, 2014 — 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® (May 18-24, 2014) Coalition, American Humane Association, the nation's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting the welfare of animals and children, encourages adults to teach children how to avoid dog bites and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility.

"For thousands of years, dogs have been our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection," says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. "In turn, we must be their best friends and protect all those around us — ourselves, our children, and our dogs — from the dangers and consequences of dog bites through good prevention strategies."

"The majority of emergency room treatments for dog bites involve children," says Justin Scally, national director of humane intervention for American Humane Association. "Studies have also shown that the greatest percentage of dog-bite fatalities occurred among children and unsupervised newborns."

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 however 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.

To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs that bite, American Humane Association offers the following suggestions:

For Children:

  • 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 of 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.

American Humane Association also offers 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 alarming statistics provided by National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition members:

  • In 2013, State Farm paid $104 million as a result of 3,700 dog bite claims. Over the past five years, the insurer has paid $510 million for claims resulting from accidents involving a dog. Sadly many of these accidents could have been prevented.
  • American Veterinary Medical Association estimates the U.S. dog population was approximately 70 million at the end of 2011, down from approximately 72 million in 2006, yet the number of dog bite incidents hasn't decreased.
  • Prevent The Bite reports that according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control CDC, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4, 9th for ages 5-9 and 11th for ages 10-14 from 2003-2012.
  • Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2013, insurers across the country paid over $483 million in dog bite claims.
  • American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery reports that according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 26,935 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2013 to repair injuries caused by dog bites.
  • U.S. Postal Service reports that 5,581 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2013. Children, elderly, and postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites.

About American Humane Association
American Humane Association is the country's first national humane organization and the only one dedicated to protecting both children and animals. Since 1877, American Humane Association has been at the forefront of virtually every major advance in protecting our most vulnerable from cruelty, abuse and neglect. Today we're also leading the way in understanding the human-animal bond and its role in therapy, medicine and society. American Humane Association reaches millions of people every day through groundbreaking research, education, training and services that span a wide network of organizations, agencies and businesses. You can help make a difference, too. Visit American Humane Association at www.americanhumane.org today.

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