Dogs may be man's best friend, but they can be a child's worst enemy.
Experts estimate that four million dog bites occur every year, the majority of victims being children. A new study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found some surprising statistics about dog bites in children. Researchers looked at severe dog bites (those that resulted in hospitalization or death) in children up to age 16. Here's what they found:
* Severe dog bites occurred most frequently in children under five.
* Most victims were familiar with the dog.
* The most common sites of injury were the head, face, and neck.
Most of the nation's more than fifty-eight million dogs have never harmed anyone, yet the number of dog-bite incidents is growing. More than four million bites are estimated annually, according to The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), in Washington, D.C..
Currently, an estimated 800,000 bites require medical treatment each year, up from 600,000 in 1993. Dog bites have become one of the most costly public health problems in America. Children are particularly at risk; about 60 percent of all dog bites and 80 percent of fatal ones involve children.
We can only guess why more dogs seem to be biting. It may be because more people are keeping dogs for security as well as companionship. It may be because of poor breeding and poor socialization. Most experts blame irresponsible owners for the trend. Some dogs,for instance, those bred for fighting or guarding property are genetically predisposed to be aggressive. But the amount of training and human interaction dogs receive also contributes to their likelihood to bite. A dog kept on the end of a chain is a dangerous and miserable dog. Unneutered dogs are three times more likely to bite than neutered ones. And any animal is capable of biting if it is frightened or hurt.
Forty-five states have passed laws regarding dangerous dog according to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ln Mississippi, for example, owners of dogs that kill can be charged with manslaughter. In Indiana, dogs may be considered deadly weapons.
To avoid problems, dog owners should always keep their pets on leashes in public and make sure their yards are safely enclosed by fences higher than their dogs can jump. They should also be alert for potential signs of viciousness: incessant barking, fierce possessiveness toward food or toys, and lunging, snapping, snarling or growling at family members or strangers. A dog acting aggressively should be seen by a veterinarian or animal behaviorist right away.
It's a problem we all can help solve!
Here are some safety tips for you and your family.Teach these rules to your children to keep them safe around all dogs:
,, Never go up to a strange dog, especially one that's tied on a leash or confined in a car. Also avoid any dog that's barking, growling, or acting frightened.
,, Don't approach a dog that is sleeping, eating or chewing a toy.
,, Before petting a dog you've been introduced to, let him sniff the back of your hand. Then pet him gently on the shoulders or back, but not on the face.
,, If a strange dog comes near you, don't scream and run away, because this may cause him to chase you. Stand very still, with your hands at your sides.
,, When walking, or bike riding safely cross the street to avoid the dog|s immediate territory.
,, Don't run past a dog. A dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch prey.
,,Teach your child, that if a dog knocks him/her down, curl into a ball and cover his/her head, and to lie very still until he leaves.
,, Try to keep an eye on a child younger than 10- around dogs. [Dogs become especially skittish around toddlers who are all energy.] Supervise your baby at all times in the presence of any dog, even your own.
,, Teach your child to treat dogs with respect, which includes never hitting or teasing a dog, or grabbing anything from its mouth.
,, If a dog threatens you, by growling, arching its back, and baring its teeth, don't scream. Avoid eye contact, many dogs consider it a threat. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
It is important to note that dog bites that result in injuries occur frequently, peaking during the summer months when children and dogs interact most.