No one knows how many dog bites there are a year. Some suggest that number is rising, even calling the situation an epidemic. The American Veterinary Medical Association and U.S. Postal Service with State Farm Insurance created Dog Bite Prevention Week, now through April 14.
I am all for preventing bites – of course – but there is no epidemic, though there may be an epidemic of human violence in the U.S.
I suggest we hear about the most serious dog attacks because they are, in fact, so rare and that is exactly why they make the news.
Tragically, there are around 16 to 30 fatal dog attacks annually in the U.S.
No question – that’s 16 to 30 too many.
However, let’s compare. In Chicago alone, there were hundreds of homicides in 2017. In America, there were over 17,000 murders in 2016. People are more dangerous people than dogs are to people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), human caretakers are a far greater threat to children than the family dog, over 100 times more dangerous.
Children are the most common targets of dog bites, by far, but kids are more likely to be run over by a forklift truck or killed by balloons than a dog.
Still more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, and more than 800,000 receive medical attention for dog bites, according to the CDC. And most bites happen to children, and from dogs the family knows, mostly their own dog.
FACTS ABOUT DOG ATTACKS
Here are some dog bite facts from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- The U.S. Postal Service reports that 6,244 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2017, down from 6,755 in 2016. Children, followed by the elderly, and then postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
- In 2017, insurers across the country paid nearly $700 million in claims related to dog bites, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute.
- Nearly 29,000 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2016 to repair injuries caused by dog bites, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons.
The most important point is prevention. Most dog bites (or bites from other pets for that matter) can be prevented. Here are some tips:
- Since most bites happen to children, never, ever leave a child alone with even the most lovable family pet. There should always be adult supervision.
- Don’t expect pets to put up with rambunctious kids, pulling tails or ears, pushing pets or literally smacking them. At some point, even the most patient and tolerant pet may “fight back.” At some point this is called self-defense.
- Understand what your pet is telling you. For example, a simple yawn from a dog can be a sign of stress. Cats are a part of this too – and without an escape route up high (and away from toddlers), a cat who feels threatened have respond instinctively with an automatic flight/fight response. Without a place to flee, the cat could fight.
- Never allow your children to approach an animal unless an adult is present. So, that dog in the backyard may seem friendly – but you don’t know for sure. Always: Children must ask to pet dogs they don’t know.
- Insure your pets are seeing a veterinarian twice annually. A dog or a cat with an ear infection, for example, may bite and the shocked family may not know why. It’s because family members have been stroking his ears, which was previously pleasurable not painful.
BREEDS THAT BITE THE MOST
For some reason people yearn to know which dog breeds bite the most often. Some insurance companies track this and create what are arguably unfair breed specific polices based on flawed data. The CDC, American Veterinary Medical Association, and national humane organizations are among those who suggest it’s a difficult thing to trek because so often breeds are misreported. Besides, what type of dog that attacks isn’t nearly as important as what prompted to bite in the first place.
Still, there are people and websites determined to especially castigate pit bull looking dogs. Here are some facts about that. Yes, it’s likely dogs that look like what we think of as pit bulls likely do bite a lot, mostly because there are a lot of them. And for no other reason. We also know that, in truth, the overwhelming majorly of dogs with the pit bull look, are actually just mutts.
We know why serious dog bites occur, and the answer is not breed, or reported breed (since so often officials guess the wrong breed).