The third week in May marks National Dog Bite Prevention Week. According to State Farm Insurance, the national average insurance cost for a dog-related injury topped $32,000 in 2014. The total cost of dog bite injuries is $531 million and over 16,000 dog-bite claims are paid nationwide. The top state for insurance payment for bite injuries is sunny California, but my home state of New York ranks third in dollars paid for bite injuries.
Numbers are Not the Whole Story
The data on bite injuries likely underestimates the cost to Americans since many minor bite injuries go unreported because the person bitten does not go to the emergency room. Additionally, the data does not include bites from other pets, like cats. Cats inflict more severe bite injuries than dogs, and those bitten by a cat sustain deeper wounds with a greater risk of serious bacterial infection.
Anyone Can Be Bitten
Anyone can be bitten by a dog. Even though I am trained to handle difficult dogs, I was the victim of a bite injury a few years ago.
Since children are the most common victims of dog bite injury, every family should take steps to protect their children. Research has shown even nursery school aged children can be taught the behavioral clues exhibited by dangerous dogs.
Examples of programs to teach children about dog safety include Blue Dog, which is a computer based program, and B.A.R.K. (Be Aware, Responsible and Kind). Check with your local animal shelter, parent organization or summer camp for classes near you. You can also watch dog safety videos on YouTube.
Make Your Dog Safe
Responsible dog owners will enroll their dog in obedience training as obedience trained dogs are less likely to bite than untrained dogs. Spayed and neutered dogs are also less likely to bite. If your dog is sick, keep them away from potential bite victims as pain or illness may make a normally friendly dog nippy. Dogs should not be tethered to a tree or dog house as these dogs often bite to defend their territory. Finally don’t let children or adults play tug of war or tease your dog as these behaviors may result in a bite injury.
Should your dog bite someone, here are tips to handle this tricky and embarrassing situation.