National Dog Bite Prevention Week opened with the terrible news of the death of a newborn infant attacked by the family dog.
More than 50% of children in the United States will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday. While some dog bites are relatively minor and don’t require ongoing medical attention, others can leave painful scars and do permanent damage to victims.
We all need to do our best to be safe, but there are extra steps that parents and dog owners can take to ensure the safety of children and senior citizens, who make up the majority of dog bite victims.
- Don’t walk up to an unfamiliar dog. If an unfamiliar dog approaches, be still.
- Don’t run away from a dog, or scream.
- Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
- Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
- Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
For dog owners, the liability of dog bites is a serious concern. The Insurance Information Institute found that one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims are related to dog bites. State Farm Insurance paid more than $109 million on thousands of dog bite claims last year alone.
Most states, including Washington and California, have statutes imposing strict liability on dog owners: owners are responsible for injuries their dogs cause, whether or not an owner knew – or should have known – that their pet was dangerous.
National Dog Bite Prevention Week partners offer tips on being a responsible dog owner:
- Obedience training can teach a dog to behave properly – and teach you how to control your dog.
- When letter carriers and others who are not familiar with your dog come to your door, keep your dog inside and away from the door.
- In protecting their territory, dogs may interpret harmless actions as a threat.
- Spay or neuter your dog.
- Dogs that receive little attention or are left tied up for long periods of time are more likely to bite.
- When you get a new dog or a shelter dog, don’t let it off the leash or bring it around children until you get to know it.