In the United States, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, most of whom are children. In Chicago alone, almost 2,000 people are bitten by dogs every year.
Young children are the most common victim of dog bites, followed by the elderly. About half of all children will be bitten by a dog before they graduate high school. Children ages 5-9 are most at risk for dog bites.
Every year, 850,000 dog bite victims require medical attention, of which, 400,000 are children. Many dog bites involves children involve familiar dogs while the children engage in everyday activities, and a higher frequency of dog bites occur in the summer.
Dog attacks can be vicious, and often require reconstructive surgery. In 2009, over 30,000 reconstructive procedures were performed on dog bite victims. Young children are more likely to be severely injured by a dog attack. This is because they are smaller and can be knocked over by a dog more easily than a larger adult. In addition, their short height puts them closer to the dogs jaws. Young children are vulnerable to dog bites near their necks and heads. Over a dozen dog bite fatalities, mostly children, occur yearly in the United States.
Unfortunately, there are all too many news stories involving dogs attacking children. Perhaps the best and most horrifying reminder that any dog can bite, are the recent attacks including:
- October 2000 story about a 6-week-old baby that was killed by the family Pomeranian (a dog breed that weighs an average 4 lbs.).
- April 2010, a 22-year-old woman was at a friend’s apartment, when her infant son was attacked by the apartment owner’s two dogs. The dogs bit the child’s groin, severing his testicles.
- June 2010, a bulldog attacked a woman and 5-year-old boy in Lakeville. The victims were treated for injuries, and the dog was shot by police.
- Again in June 2010, a 5-year-old girl in Pittsburgh was attacked by a pit-bull. The girl’s injuries required plastic surgery to repair her bottom lip.
- July 2010, a black lab grabbed a 2-year-old girl by the head at a family gathering.
- September 2010, a two and a half year old child was bit in the face by the family dog in Nashville, TN.
Dogs are wonderful companions and pets, but they should be treated with caution and respect. The most effective way to protect yourself and your children from dog attacks is through dog bit prevention education and responsible dog ownership.
Preventing Child Dog Attacks
Dog bites are preventable. Effective dog bite prevention requires both responsible pet owners and caution by those coming into contact with dogs. It is important to remember that any dog can bite. Some dog breeds have been identified as “more aggressive” than other breeds, but a lot of a dog’s behavior depends on how it was raised and how it is treated.
Children should be taught to be cautious around strange dogs and treat dogs with respect. In addition, parents and schools should begin dog bite prevention education at a young age, so children know how to avoid being attacked by a dog.
8 Ways to Avoid Being Bitten By a Dog:
- Be alert for dangerous situations
- Stay away from strange dogs that you may not be familiar with
- Ask for permission before petting a dog
- Do not disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or caring for puppies
- Do not run past a dog (this could encourage the dog to chase you)
- If threatened by a dog – do not scream, avoid eye contact, and remain still until the dog leaves, then back away slowly
- If a dog is about to attack, place something between yourself and the dog (backpack, bicycle)
- If you are knocked over or fall, curl into a ball and protect your head and face
How to Be a Responsible Dog Owner:
- Carefully select your pet
- Neuter your dog (makes them less likely to bite)
- Have your dog vaccinated
- Train your dog, enlist in obedience training if necessary
- Properly socialize your dog
- Do not leave your dog tied up for a long time, with little handling or attention
- Do not put your dog in a position where it feels threatened
- Use a leash in public
- If your dog is unpredictable around people, use a muzzle or other protective devices
If you are bitten by a dog, you should seek medical treatment. Try to gather as much information about the dog and its owner. This information can help animal-control officers find the dog and its owner. Wound infection is a major concern with dog bites. Doctors take the victim’s history, obtain information about the attack, and assess the risk for tetanus and rabies. The wound is inspected and irrigated with saline to reduce the risk of infection, and the victim is usually put on antibiotics.
Children are naturally drawn to animals including dogs. While many dogs are gentle and playful, any dog can bite. However, dog bites are preventable. It just requires responsible dog owners and precautions from those who encounter dogs.