According to the Center for Disease Control, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people per year with 800,000 Americans requiring medical attention for those attacks. The scariest statistic is that the highest rate of dog bite related injuries were among children ages 5 – 9 years old with approximately 150,000 dog bites occurring among children under the age of 14. More importantly, the majority of injuries to children 4 years old and under were to the head/neck region, causing obvious concern regarding the possibility of severe injuries.
Despite the troubling statistics which are considered by many experts to under-represent the true number of dog bites and attacks in our country, many dog bites are widely considered to be preventable. As a result, the Center for Disease Control has published a number of ways that dog attacks can be prevented which include considerations before purchasing a dog as well as safety tips that should be taught to every child. They are as follows:
Things to Consider Before You Get a Dog:
Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn about suitable breeds of dogs for your household.
Dogs with histories of aggression are inappropriate in households with children.
Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog and, if so, delay acquiring a dog.
Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into the home of an infant or toddler.
Spay/neuter virtually all dogs (this frequently reduces aggressive tendencies).
Never leave infants or young children alone with any dog.
Do not play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
Properly socialize and train any dog entering the household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose abdomen and relinquishing food without growling).
Immediately seek profession advice (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
Preventing Dog Bites:
Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
Do not run from a dog and scream.
Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
Prevent children from playing with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
Immediately report stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult
Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
Do not disturb a dog who is sleeping, eating or especially caring for puppies.
Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
If bitten, immediately report the bite.
The full article can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/duip/biteprevention.htm
NOTE: If you or a loved one has been injured by a dog bite or attack, many of these factors, especially the "Things to Consider Before You Get a Dog" are investigated and may form the basis of a cause of action against a caretaker of a dog for negligence in addition to the statutory strict liability claim against the owner. On the other side of the case, the insurance company will likely attempt to question the bitten person's actions prior to the bite, using many of the factors listed in "Preventing Dog Bites" in an attempt to limit their monetary exposure.