National Dog Bite Prevention Week® is April 9—15, 2023, and so now is a perfect time to teach people about dog bite prevention.
An estimated 85 million dogs are living in U.S. homes. Understanding how to prevent dog bites can benefit everyone.
Dog Bite Statistics
- 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs each year.
- 20% of dog bites require medical attention
- 12,480 people in the United States are hospitalized each year because of dog bites
- 31 dog bites are fatal annually in the United States
- 2% of dogs will bite
- 50% of dog bite victims are children — 80% of injuries to children are to the head or neck
- 5,400 U.S. Postal workers are attacked by dogs each year
Origins of National Dog Bite Prevention Week
Recognizing the need for public education on dog bites, several organizations, including the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), founded National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
The organizations comprising the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition include:
- The AVMA: The AVMA is a research, education, and advocacy voice for the veterinary profession.
- State Farm: As a home insurance provider, State Farm insurance paid $157 million in claims for dog bites in 2020 alone.
- American Humane: Since 1877, American Humane has worked for the well being of animals. The group aims to meet the needs of animals, whether it is rescue, shelter, or security.
- Victoria Stilwell: Actress Victoria Stilwell is the star of Animal Planet’s It’s Me or the Dog. She is a dog trainer, behavior expert, and media personality appearing on a variety of television shows and programs. Her organization, the Victoria Stilwell Academy, offers dog training and behavior services.
- Insurance Information Institute: A membership of more than 60 insurance companies, the Insurance Information Institute compiles statistics and educational material to encourage sound decision making for insurers and insured alike.
These groups came together to create and present National Dog Bite Prevention Week. There are several features and highlights of the week, including a toolkit available to AVMA members that contains free materials. The public can access informational videos and social media posts. An AVMA published report, A community approach to dog bite prevention, provides veterinarians and community leaders with tangible steps they can take to prevent and reduce dog bites.
Why Dogs Bite
Dogs bite people for several different reasons:
- Feeling threatened, overwhelmed, or stressed
- Defending its territory
- Protecting something, like a person, their puppies, food, or objects
- Illness or injury
- Being startled, including when waking up from sleep
- Wanting to be left alone
How to Prevent Dog Bites
Tips for dog owners
- Spay or neuter your dog. It is statistically proven to reduce aggressive behaviors and dog bites.
- Help your dog stay healthy. Many dogs bite because they don’t feel well. Getting regular veterinary attention and helping your pet live a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise may prevent a bite from occurring.
- Have your dog trained. Teaching your dog at the appropriate age can help them develop good habits.
- Teach your dog to socialize. Give your dog opportunities to socialize. Be aware of signs of stress while socializing. Seek professional help if it’s necessary.
- Don’t leave young children alone with a dog. Children under ten should not be left alone with a dog.
- Know your dog’s triggers. The better you know your dog, and situations that are problematic for them, the more you can help them avoid circumstances where they may be uncomfortable.
Tips for people encountering a dog
- Don’t approach if the dog wants to be left alone. Sometimes, a dog wants time alone. If they seem like they’re in an unusual mood, sleeping, eating, or if they appear injured, give them space.
- Avoid a growling or barking dog. A dog that is growling or barking is telling you to stay back.
- Remain calm. If you encounter a dog that seems aggressive, stay calm. Don’t run, and don’t make eye contact. Slowly move away.
- Assume you shouldn’t pet the dog. Ask if you want to pet a dog. If you don’t see an owner, if the dog is behind a fence, or if you don’t yet have permission, then don’t pet a dog. If you pet the dog, let them get to know you slowly.
- Respond to a dog’s signals. Dogs communicate with visual and audio signals, just like we do. If a dog seems angry or fearful, don’t approach them.
What to Do If You’re Bitten By a Dog
If you’re bitten by a dog, seek medical attention immediately. If your injuries are minor, you may wash the wound, apply pressure to stop the bleeding, and use an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection. Change dressings and examine for signs of infection regularly. If necessary, seek appropriate professional medical care.
Identify the dog’s owner. Ask for their insurance information. Take photos of the dog bite, including as it heals. You can also use medical records to verify your injuries.
Contact Animal Control. The County’s animal control department should take a report, notify DHEC, and confirm the dog’s vaccination status. If the dog’s owner violated a County ordinance, then they may receive a ticket.
Most importantly, contact a lawyer to discuss your case. You may be entitled to receive financial compensation for your injuries. Many claims are settled through homeowner insurance policies, so trial may not be necessary.
David Price is a Personal Injury, Civil Litigation, Collections, and Criminal Defense Attorney who practices in Greenville, SC. He graduated from the University of Georgia School of Law, and has been practicing law for 12 years. David Price believes in helping those who have been injured. Learn more about his experience by clicking here.