On Bipeds & Brutes

National Museum of Animals & Society Blog

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

Trained attack dog Samo leaps forward toward a decoy's arm wrap as Tech. Sgt. David Adcox restrains him. By U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell.

Image via Wikipedia

This week (May 15-21) is National Dog Bite Prevention Week, an awareness campaign originally launched by the United States Postal Service to draw attention to the problem of attacks by domestic dogs on postal workers. Currently co-sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the American Academy of Pediatrics, the educational nonprofit group Prevent the Bite (PTB), and a host of organizations representing the plastic surgery and insurance industries, the event is now in its 17th year and is geared primarily toward educating dog guardians on how to prevent injuries to young children ages 5 to 9, the demographic most likely to be seriously and even fatally injured in dog attacks.

Here are a few statistics illustrating just how serious and widespread the problem of dog bites currently is in the United States:

  • About 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. That amounts to 12,329 people per day, 514 per hour, and nearly nine people per minute. (Source: CDC)
  • Over half of all reported dog bites occur to children under the age of twelve. The odds of a dog bite victim being a child are 3.2:1. (Source: PTB)
  • Over 800,000 dog bites per year – that’s one in five – require medical attention. Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States seeks medical attention for a dog bite; nearly 70% of them are children. In fact, dog bites to children are 300% more likely to require medical attention than those to adults. (Source: PTB)
  • In victims younger than 18 years old, 30% of dog bites are inflicted by the family dog, and 50% by a neighbor’s dog. (Source: AVMA)
  • In 2010, nearly 33,000 reconstructive surgeries were performed to repair damage from dog bites, up 8% from 2009. (Source: ASPS)
  • Over one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out in 2010 – amounting to nearly $413 million – were the result of dog bites. The average cost of dog bite claims was over $26,000 in 2010, up 5.3% from 2009. From 2003 to 2010, the cost of dog bite claims has risen almost 37%. (Source: III)

The real tragedy of dog bites is that, in the majority of cases, they are entirely preventable. “Veterinarians recognize, while there are 72 million good dogs in the United States, any dog can bite if it is frightened or feels threatened, even the family pet,” says AVMA President Dr. Larry M. Kornegay. Unfortunately, dogs involved in biting incidents are often euthanized to prevent further aggressive behavior – even if that behavior is purely the result of improper training, mistreatment, or poor judgment on the part of the guardian or victim. The responsibility lies with the human, yet sadly it is the dog who most often faces the consequences.

So how can dog bites be prevented? What methods can be used to educate children on proper dog handling and behavior? What are the signs and cues that a dog is feeling threatened or uncomfortable and may be about to bite? Please stay tuned for our next post, where we will bring you safety tips and more on National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

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2 responses to “National Dog Bite Prevention Week

  1. Abby May 18, 2011 at 2:15 pm

    I’m glad my husband and I were able to work with our dog and help train him out of his human aggressive behaviors (he’s still a growler sometimes, but no bites anymore). It scares me to think of what would have happened if someone else had adopted him instead of us. Would they have given up after the first bite and had him put down?
    In the first year we had our beagle, he probably bit me about five or six times. We’ve been two years without a bite, now, and our bond with him gets stronger every day.
    Dog bites are pretty scary, though, even from a beagle. I’m lucky none of them were serious. He’s also lucky none of them were serious.

    • Carolyn Merino Mullin May 20, 2011 at 6:35 am

      We’re happy to hear that you two are dedicated animal guardians and were able to work through your dog’s aggression. We hope your story will inspire others in a similar situation to do the same!

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