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Dog Bite Facts

Posted by attorney Joseph Maridon

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Every 40 seconds someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite-related injury.

  • Dog attacks cause 4.5 million injuries annually, 800,000 of which require medical attention.

  • At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog bite-related fatalities in the United States. Pit bulls and Rottweilers account for over half of these deaths.

  • 24% of human deaths involve unrestrained dogs off of their owners' property.

  • 58% of human deaths involved unrestrained dogs on their owners' property.

Dogs can be a danger to children! What parents should know.

Children under 15 years of age are the most common victims, making up approximately 70% of all dog bite victims. Dog bites are a greater health problem for children than measles, mumps, and whooping cough combined. Young boys between the ages of five and nine are the most frequent victims.

Breed-specific legislation

These alarming statistics have caused many communities across the country to enact breed-specific legislation that prohibits people from owning some breeds of dogs, such as pit bulls. The American Humane Society understands that any breed of dog can bite, and as such, believes that breed-specific legislation does not effectively protect the community from dangerous animals. Legislation banning particular breeds can unnecessarily discriminate against dogs that are not dangerous, and does little to protect the community from dog bite incidents. Such legislation can often have unintended consequences, such as black market interest, indiscriminant breeding practices, and subsequent overpopulation issues. Additionally, there can be confusion when dealing with "mixed-breed" dogs, which can make legislation difficult to enforce. Therefore, the American Humane Society supports local legislation to protect communities from dangerous animals, but does not advocate laws that target specific breeds of dogs. The pit bull is a type of dog bred for fighting, not a specific breed. Responsibly bred and owned, the American Staffordshire Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier -- often referred to as pit bulls -- are not fighting dogs.

Avoid being bitten

There are steps individuals can take to protect themselves against being bitten by a dog. - Never approach a dog you don't know or a dog that is alone without its owner, especially if the dog is behind a fence, tied with a rope or chain, or in a parked car.

  • Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping, or guarding something. Dogs naturally guard their babies, food, bones, and toys.

  • Never chase or tease dogs. Don't poke, hit, pull, or pinch a dog.

  • Never approach a dog (or any animal) that is injured.

  • Always ask the owner's permission before petting a dog.

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

When approached by a strange dog:
  • Do not run away. Dogs have a natural instinct to chase and catch things.

  • Do not make eye contact with the dog.

  • Stand very still like a statue with your arms at your sides, or back away slowly and quietly.

  • In a loud, commanding voice, tell the dog to "go away."

  • If you are attacked, give the dog an object, such as a jacket or backpack to bite or chew on.

If you fall or are knocked to the ground: - Curl into a ball.

  • Protect your face by covering your head and neck.

  • Put your hands over your ears.

Prevent dog attacks: What can pet owners do?
  • Choose your dog carefully. Select a breed or type of dog that is appropriate for your family and home.

  • Socialize your dog. Be sure your dog interacts with all members of the family, as well as people outside the family and with other animals.

  • License your dog, obey leash laws, and take care to properly fence yards. Dogs that are allowed to roam loose outside the yard expand their "territory," and will often defend it aggressively.

  • Neuter your dog. Neutering reduces aggression, especially in males. Un-neutered dogs are more than 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs.

  • Train your dog. Basic obedience training is as important for the owner as it is for the dog.

  • Maintain your dog's health. Not only is it the right thing for the dog, but it also reduces bite responses caused by pain or irritability.

  • Be sure your dog is vaccinated for rabies and other diseases.

  • Provide your dog with adequate food, shelter, exercise, and affection. Tethering or chaining dogs makes them feel vulnerable and increases their aggression.

  • Don't play aggressive games with your dog.

Remember, your dog, your responsibility!

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