American Humane gives advice for National Dog Bite Prevention Week

April 4, 2019

The following is a press release from American Humane:

Every year more than 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs with 800,000 of these bites serious enough to require people to seek medical care. As part of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week® coalition, American Humane, the country’s first national humane organization, is encouraging Americans during National Dog Bite Prevention Week (April 7-13, 2019) and all year round to prevent dog bites and help avoid a double tragedy for both people and animals.

“A dog bite can have a devastating effect not only on the victim, but also on the dog, who may be euthanized,” says Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane. “It’s up to us humans to protect ourselves, our families 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 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 people and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.

To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane 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 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 can 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 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 statistics and tips provided by National Dog Bite Prevention Week® Coalition members:

  • American Veterinary Medical Association estimates there are approximately 78 million dogs in U.S. homes and each year 4.5 million people are bitten or injured by dogs. “Even the gentlest dog can bite if they are in pain, feel threatened, or are competing for resources such as food or space,” said Dr. John de Jong, AVMA President. “Not only is it important to understand how dogs behave, it is important to understand how a dog may interpret our behavior.” AVMA’s ‘Jimmy the Dog’ video series lets preschoolers look at how a dog might interpret different scenarios.
  • Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for nearly one third of all homeowners’ liability claim dollars paid out in 2018, costing $675 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 decreased to 17,297 in 2018, compared to 18,522 in 2017– a 6.6 percent decrease.  The average cost per claim increased by 5.3 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $39,017 in 2018, compared with $37,051 in 2017.
  • In 2018, State Farm paid $123 million for 3,280 dog bite and injury claims. The insurance company believes that educating dog owners about being responsible will reduce dog-related injuries. State Farm is also one of the few insurance companies in the country that does not have a breed restriction list and does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned. Under the right circumstances any dog might bite.

“We’ve seen firsthand over the years the tragic consequences surrounding dog bites and their effect on those involved – the people who are injured, the animals who may be relinquished or even destroyed, and the dog’s owners who have to cope with the loss of a beloved family member,” said Lesa Staubus, DVM, American Humane Rescue veterinarian, speaking at the April 4 National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition kick-off event in Chicago. “Once your dog has bitten someone – or you or a family member fall victim to a dog bite – it will be already be too late.  Let’s practice good prevention instead.”

American Humane is the country’s first national humane organization, founded in 1877. For more information, please visit www.americanhumane.org today.