Dog bite statistics and preventative tips

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dogs bite almost 4.5 million people — more than 2.2 million of whom are children — every year in the United States. Florida residents might be surprised to hear that about 20 percent of these bites result in injuries that require medical treatment, and, in 2012, more than 27,000 bites were so severe that they warranted reconstructive surgery.

To prevent dog bites, being aware of who has a higher risk of being bitten is a good start: The frequency of dog bites is highest among children between the ages of 5 and 9, and they are more likely to need medical aid than adults. Among adults, however, dogs are more likely to bite males than females. The risk of dog bites among people who have two dogs or more is five times greater than for people who do not have dogs.

The CDC advises potential dog owners to research the different breeds before they pick out dogs for their homes, particularly if they have children. Once they buy or adopt a dog, they need to ensure that it is properly trained. Spaying or neutering dogs also reduces their aggressiveness. If dogs develop aggressive tendencies, the owners should seek professional advice.

Children and adults who see a stray dog acting unusual should report the dog immediately. If an unfamiliar dog approaches a person, he or she should refrain from moving, screaming or looking the dog in the eyes. Dogs also do not like to be petted until they have seen and sniffed whoever is petting them first, which is an important lesson for children. Parents are also advised to teach children to report a dog bite immediately as well.

In Florida, the owners of dogs who bite people are held liable for injuries that victims suffer unless a sign reading ‘Bad Dog” is displayed on their property. This means that dog bite victims who did not provoke the biting dogs could be entitled to compensation regardless of whether they were on public or private property.

Source: CDC.gov, “Dog Bites“, July 30, 2014