As an animal lover, especially dogs, it is sad to hear when someone has been bitten or mauled by a dog. The most effective ways to reduce dog bites are responsible breeding and ownership, public education, and enforcement of existing laws. The American Humane Association supports local legislation to protect communities from dangerous animals, but does not advocate laws that target specific breeds of dogs. We have owned both large and small dogs from time to time. The largest dog we owned was a German Shepard, and he had a very gentle nature. Pit bulls and Rotweillers are sometimes outlawed in communities.
It is up to the owner to understand the nature of the breed of dog they choose. Our last choice was Buddy, a Jack Russell Terrier, (almost 12 years old now), and if we had researched the very nature of this breed, we might have thought twice! Since we didn’t, however, he has been a great companion and we wouldn’t trade him for anything. But, I could write a book on all of his escapades in the past. He is not to be trusted unless he is penned up or on a leash; if he sees a squirrel or cat, he’s gone, and very hard to catch. He’s slowing down now, much to our relief!
Here are some statistics from the American Humane Association, regarding dog bites:
- An estimated 4.7 million dog bites occur in the U.S. annually.
- Nearly 800,000 dog bites require medical care.
- Approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, 94% of which were not neutered. Neutering reduces aggression, especially in males. Un-neutered dogs are more than 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs. It is not that expensive to have your dog spayed or neutered.
- Approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved chained dogs. Tethered dogs are 2.8 more times likely to bite. Chaining dogs increases their stress, protectiveness and vulnerability, thereby increasing the potential for aggression. Fences are better solutions, and certainly less cruel.
- Approximately 71% of bites occur to the extremities (arms, legs, hand, feet.)
- The insurance industry pays more than $1 billion in dog-bite claims each year.
- Approximately two-thirds of bites occurred on or near the victim’s property, and most victims knew the dog.
- At least 25 different breeds of dogs have been involved in the 238 dog-bite-related fatalities in the U.S.
Many of the victims of dog bites are postal service workers, meter readers, salespersons, and delivery workers. Fifty per cent of dog attacks involve children under 12 years old. Bite rates are dramatically higher among children 5 to 9 years old. Here are some important rules to follow, as well as teach our children:
- Supervise your dog.
- Train and socialize your dog.
- Restrain the dog. Dogs that are allowed to roam loose outside the yard may think the whole neighborhood is their “territory” and defend it aggressively. It’s a better way to keep your dog safe from getting run over by a car, as well.
- Don’t tease your dog.
- Never pet a dog without permission from its owner.
- Don’t back them into a corner or bother them when they are sleeping.
- Know the warning signs: growling, backing up or curling its lip.
- Never treat a dog unkindly.
- Don’t approach a dog that is tied up.
- Stay calm, and be still.
If you feel threatened by dogs in your neighborhood, call an animal control officer or local law enforcement; don’t wait until something bad happens. Animals deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. Dogs love us unconditionally, even though some don’t get the attention they deserve. Pay attention to their behavior and keep things on an even keel, and you’ll have a great companion.
Source: American Medical Veterinary Association, American Humane Association