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Off, Spike! Off! February 25, 2011

Posted by acroanmph in Public Health.
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Prevent dog bites

Last week a friend’s dog bit my daughter in the face. The bite was not severe and required no medical attention. But it was an odd incident, the dog was unprovoked and untouched, sitting with two girls on a sofa watching a movie. Another friend suggested a blog post about the surprisingly high number of dog bites annually in the U.S. as she pointed out an old scar on her face from a Great Dane bite.

The most effective method for dealing with dog bite issues is public education about prevention. According to the CDC, over 3.5 million children suffer severe injuries each year from dog bites to the face, head and neck. This is about ten times the number of bites my friend and I had estimated. The majority of these children are under the age of 7.  Unfortunate for this age group, most bite prevention programs are geared toward children over the age of 8. Seventy percent of dog bite fatalities occur among children under the age of 10.

Last year, the American Humane Association developed program KIDS™ (Kids Interacting with Dogs Safely) specifically for kids ages 4-7. This combines a classroom-type curriculum with an educational DVD which stresses empathy for the animals instead of fear. It may be ordered by emailing humaneed@americanhumane.org.

Many communities have enacted breed specific legislation (BSL) since 25 different breeds were involved with 238 fatal bites. Usually this legislation prohibits ownership of certain breeds, most commonly pit bulls and Rottweilers, but any breed may bite.

Some dogs aggressively defend their territory which they may view as their yard or entire neighborhood. In addition to fencing your property and obeying leash laws, do not leave children, especially infants, unsupervised with a dog in the immediate area, always spay or neuter your dog, unchain, train and socialize it, leave a dog alone while it is eating, and teach kids to W.A.I.T:

  • Wait to see if the dog is accompanied by an owner.
  • Ask the owner for permission to pet the dog. If the answer is yes,
  • Invite the dog to sniff you, then
  • Touch the dog gently to pet it.

For unknown reasons, the occurrence of dog bites has doubled over the past 15 years, despite increased education about spaying and neutering, safety presentations and obedience training. Yet, as pet owners, it is our responsibility to minimize potential aggressive behavior in our beloved pets. Click here to watch a short video about dog-proofing your child.

Related link:

Dog bite first-aid

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