SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA, April 5, 2018 — 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® Coalition, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, encourages adults to protect both children and dogs, and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility.
“Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. “But it’s up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our kids, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites.”
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.
“A dog bite can have a profound effect not only on the victim, but on the dog, who may be euthanized, and the dog’s owners who have to cope with the loss of a beloved family member,” said Dr. Kwane Stewart, Chief Veterinary Officer for American Humane’s “No Animals Were Harmed®” program, speaking at the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition kick-off event in San Diego on April 5. “All those who have a canine companion need to make sure they know the steps they can take to prevent their dog from biting someone.”
To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane offers the following suggestions:
- 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 or 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.
Consider these statistics and tips provided by National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition members:
- Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2017, costing almost $700 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm®, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States. An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the I.I.I. found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide increased to 18,522 in 2017, compared to 18,122 in 2016 – a 2.2 percent increase. The average cost per claim increased by 11.5 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $37,051. in 2017, compared with $32,230 in 2016.
- Insurance company State Farm reports that in 2017, it paid over $132 million as a result of 3,618 dog-related injury claims. The average cost paid per claim was $36,573. State Farm is also one of the few insurance companies that does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned. The company reinforces that responsible pet ownership and educating children about how to safely interact with dogs is key to reducing dog bites.
- “There are more than 70 million good dogs in the United States but veterinarians know that no matter the size or breed, any dog can bite,” said Dr. Mike Topper, AVMA President. “Veterinarians also know the majority, if not all bites, can be prevented through education. Your veterinarian and its association, the AVMA, have extensive resources designed to keep your pup a happy, healthy member of your family and community.”
- The U.S. Postal Service says the number of postal employees attacked by dogs nationwide reached 6,244 in 2017 – more than 500 fewer than 2016. Among the tools used to drive such incidents down are interactive training techniques for mail carriers to protect themselves when approached by dogs – training that is supplement each year through communication – and the carriers’ mobile scanning devices, which now have the ability to provide alerts for delivery addresses where dogs may be present. The Postal Service encourages customers to be responsible pet owners and keep dogs away from the carrier when deliveries are being made.