Dogs are known as man's best friend. Some people even consider their dogs to be their children. They are known to decrease stress and anxiety, increase activity levels and often become lovable playmates for kids. But the fact remains, a dog is still an animal and animals can bite.
According to the Center for Disease Control, roughly 4.5 million dog bites take place each year in the United States and one out of five require medical attention. More serious dog bites may cause injury, infection, or possible nerve damage. Proper training and management of both children and dogs is important to prevent bite injuries.
Who is the most at risk?
Children run the highest risk of being bitten by a dog, specifically those between the ages of five and nine.
Where do the most dog bites occur?
Surprisingly, the majority of dog bites happen at home. Most people are typically bitten by dogs they know, whether it be a family pet or a friend's dog.
How can dog bites be avoided?
Here is a list of tips for preventing dog bites:
- Use gentle behavior. Most children don't know their own strength nor do they understand how intense their presence can be. Teach your children not to hit, grab, push, pull or play too rough with the dog. Also, teach your children to never tease or taunt a dog. Encourage them to be gentle and avoid making sudden movements towards the dog or any other animal. Encourage them to treat the animal with respect.
- Dinner time is not playtime. Dogs are very protective over their food and may feel threatened if approached while eating.
- Ask permission before petting unfamiliar dogs. Even if the dog's owner is present, it's important to teach your children to ask for permission before touching an unfamiliar dog. Some dogs are more aggressive than others, so be cautious and always ask the owner if it's okay first.
- Never leave young children alone with a dog. Both children and dogs can be unpredictable and should be supervised when put together.
- Be mindful of the dog's body language. If a dog seems tense, has a stiff tail and/or their ears are pulled back, stay away and give them space. If a dog is asleep, let it be. A dog may be startled or act aggressively if unexpectedly woken.
- Don't panic, scream or run away. If a dog becomes aggressive, tell your children to remain as calm as possible. Avoid making eye contact with the dog and move slowly away.
If you, your child or a loved one has been bitten by a dog, it is good idea to do the following:
- Notify local law enforcement of the incident;
- Obtain professional medical treatment;
- Collect pictures of the dog, scene, and injuries; and
- Identify the dog and its owner.
You should also consider contacting an experienced dog bite attorney. The attorney can help walk you through the process. He or she can also help you with issues that might arise such as how to handle medical expenses. Finally, he or she can help you to find out what legal recourse may be available in your particular situation.