What is National Dog Bite Prevention Week?

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is the third full week in May each year.  It is a public awareness campaign designed to help educate people in preventing dog bites.

The American Veterinary Medical Association supports the campaign by offering many resources on dog bite prevention, including a podcast, articles, a video, and useful links and tips. The website also offers social media tips for getting the word out.

The United States Postal Service calls attention to one of the nation’s most commonly reported public health problems and is a sponsor for National Dog Bite Prevention week.  In 2014 5,767 letter carriers were victimized by dogs. The USPS offers many resources for getting the community involved.

Tips and information from various sources are available.  Some information sets encourage pet owners to act responsibly, while others advise on what to do during an attack.  It’s important to remember that any dog can bite.  Too many people have said “my dog would never bite” when what they should say is “my dog probably won’t ever bite me.”

Get the facts:

Each year about 4.5 million people in the US are bitten by a dog

About 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites each year

About 350,000 of these dog attacks end in an emergency room visit

In 2008, there were 9,500 hospital stays related to dog bites

Dog ownership increased again in 2014 with 83.3 million dogs having homes in U.S. households

On average, every day there were 866 emergency department visits and 26 hospitalizations related to dog bites in 2008

In 2008, the average cost of a dog bite-related inpatient stay was $18,200, the average cost of injury-related hospitalization was about 50 percent lower

For patients who lived in rural areas, the rate of dog bite-related emergency department visits was 119.3 per 100,000 people, about four times higher than in urban areas

Insurance claims for dog bites were up for 2013 with claims numbering around 17,359

In 2013, insurance claims for dog bites cost about 484 million dollars, the average claim costing $28,000

5,767 postal employees suffered a dog attack in 2014; this number is up from 2013

The number of people admitted to the hospital because of dog bites increased by 86 percent between 1993 and 2008.  Hospital stays went from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008

What can pet owners do?

Obey leash laws, and even if there isn’t one in place for your area it’s important to have control of your dog when out in public.

Spaying or neutering a dog is a step in the right direction.  Intact males are responsible for 70-76% of reported dog bite incidents.  Also, the overwhelming stray dog population is another good reason to have your dog spayed or neutered.  Each year about 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters nationwide.  Of those in shelters, nearly 1.2 million are euthanized.

Keep your dog healthy.  How your dog feels directly affects how your dog behaves.  A dog in pain is more likely to snap.

Socialize dogs to people and other dogs.

Train your dog.  Even basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “no” and “come” can be helpful.  The positive reinforcement training method is a great way to build a bond with your dog and has been shown to be very effective.

If you have a fenced yard, make sure the gates and fence are secure.

Keep your dogs in another room, inside and away from the door, or on a leash when people come to your door.

It’s not a good idea to leave dogs tied out.

National Dog Bite Prevention Week is a great opportunity to bring attention to this mostly preventable public health issue.  There is a lot of information to be discovered, and sometimes just being aware of the problem is helpful.  If aggressive dogs threaten your activities, there are products on the market that can be helpful, some of them are completely humane.

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