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Dog Bite Prevention Week

Author: Dr. Christine Calvert, DVM

Dog Bite Prevention 

  • Each year, more than 4.5 million people in the U.S. are bitten by dogs.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. 
  • Every year, more than 800,000 Americans receive medical attention for dog bites; at least half of them are children. 
  • Children are, by far, the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured.
  • Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. 
  • Senior citizens are the second most common dog bite victims.

There are many things you can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing your pet to educating your children on how - or if - they should approach a dog. Information and education are the best solutions for this public health crisis. 

The Postal Service continues its tradition of calling attention to one of the nation’s most commonly reported public health problems: dog bites.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is a public service campaign that offers safety tips and emphasizes the need for increased pet owner responsibility in the prevention of dog bites.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) report that small children, the elderly, and Postal Service carriers — in that order — are the most frequent victims of dog bites. It is also stated that the number of dog bites exceeds the reported instances of measles, whooping cough and mumps, combined. Dog bite victims account for up to five percent of emergency room visits.

The Postal Service along with other organizations offers safety tips and emphasizes the need for pet owners to be more responsible. Our campaign is "Any dog can bite. Don't be fooled".

How do you avoid getting bit by a dog? Start by being polite and respecting the dog's personal space. Never approaching an unfamiliar dog, especially one who's tied or confined behind a fence or in a car. Don't pet a dog—even your own—without letting him see and sniff you first.

Don't disturb a dog while she's sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy, or caring for puppies. Be cautious around strange dogs. Always assume that a dog who doesn't know you may see you as an intruder or a threat.

Pay attention to the dog's body language
 

Put a safe amount of space between yourself and a dog if you see the following signals (illustrated in the video above), that the dog is uncomfortable and might feel the need to bite:

  • tensed body
  • stiff tail
  • pulled back head and/or ears
  • furrowed brow
  • eyes rolled so the whites are visible
  • yawning
  • flicking tongue
  • intense stare
  • backing away

When putting space between yourself and a dog who might bite, never turn your back on him dog and run away. A dog's natural instinct will be to chase and catch you.

What to do if you think a dog may attack
 

If you are approached by a dog who may attack you, follow these steps:

Resist the impulse to scream and run away.

Remain motionless, hands at your sides, and avoid eye contact with the dog.

Once the dog loses interest in you, slowly back away until he is out of sight.

If the dog does attack, "feed" him your jacket, purse, bicycle, or anything that you can put between yourself and the dog.

If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your ears and remain motionless. Try not to scream or roll around.

How to prevent your dog from biting someone »

What to do if you're bitten by a dog
 

If you are bitten or attacked by a dog, try not to panic.

Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and warm water.

Contact your physician for additional care and advice.

Report the bite to your local animal care and control agency. Tell the animal control official everything you know about the dog, including his owner's name and the address where he lives. If the dog is a stray, tell the animal control official what the dog looks like, where you saw him, whether you've seen him before, and in which direction he went.

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