The month of May includes National Dog Bite Prevention Week, which is designed to increase awareness of an all-too common problem. Obviously I love dogs, yet it’s naive to think that dog bites are something that just happens “somewhere else” to “somebody else.” When a pack of roaming dog attacks a jogger in her own neighborhood (as happened here a few years ago), or a child is bitten in the face by a friend’s dog (which also happened recently), clearly people do get bitten, even here. The reality is that most victims of dog bites aren’t burglars; they are people the dog knows.
Statistically speaking, every year, 4.7 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs, and sixty percent of them are children. Around 800,000 people require medical attention for dog bites, and about 12 people annually are killed by dogs.
The sad thing is that almost all dog bites can be prevented. Education, responsible dog ownership, and animal control are the key. For example, in the case of the jogger who was attacked, the dogs were known to be a problem long before the attack. The owners let the dogs run and should never have been allowed to have so many dogs in the first place since they couldn’t care for them. Animal control efforts were ineffective and the whole neighborhood knew the dogs were a problem. It was inevitable that someone eventually would get hurt.
In this area, the sad lack of animal control and humane services is only going to become a greater problem as the population grows. If you live in an area where resources are similarly limited, it’s especially important that you understand why dogs bite, so you can avoid becoming yet another statistic.
Dogs bite for three primary reasons: because they are defending their territory, afraid, or expressing dominance. Often it’s a combination of all three, so it’s important to pay attention to the actions of any unfamiliar dog. If he seems edgy or afraid, or is behaving oddly, he’s more likely to bite.
It’s especially important to learn and teach your kids a few common sense rules. If you encounter a tense, aggressive seeming dog, don’t approach it. If a strange dog comes up to you, stand still. Don’t run and don’t scream. Also don’t look the dog straight in the eye. If the dog knocks you down, curl up into the fetal position and cover your face.
When it comes to kids, never leave small children alone with dogs unsupervised. Make sure you teach your children not to tease dogs or disturb a dog when he’s sleeping or eating. Kids also should be instructed to tell adults whenever they see a stray dog or any dog that seems to be acting oddly.
Most dogs are friendly, so you don’t need to walk around in fear of every canine you meet. But it pays to be cautious. You can love dogs, yet still care about people and your own safety too.