Every year more than 4.5 million Americans, more than half of them children, are bitten by dogs.
As part of the National Dog Bite Prevention Week® coalition, American Humane, the country's first national humane organization, encourages adults to protect both children and dogs, and learn the importance of pet owner responsibility.
"Dogs are our best friends, providing love, comfort and protection," says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane. "But it's up to us humans to be good friends to them as well by protecting everyone around us – ourselves, our kids, and our dogs – from the dangers and consequences of dog bites."
Dogs can bite for many reasons, including improper care and/or a lack of socialization. All dogs, even well-trained, gentle dogs, are capable of biting however when provoked, especially when eating, sleeping or caring for puppies. Thus, even when a bite is superficial or classified as "provoked," dogs may be abandoned or euthanized. Therefore, it's vitally important to keep both children and dogs safe by preventing dog bites wherever possible.
"A dog bite can have a profound effect not only on the victim, but on the dog, who may be euthanized, and the dog's owners who have to cope with the loss of a beloved family member," said Dr. Kwane Stewart, Chief Veterinary Officer for American Humane's "No Animals Were Harmed®" program, speaking at the National Dog Bite Prevention Week Coalition kick-off event in San Diego on April 5. "All those who have a canine companion need to make sure they know the steps they can take to prevent their dog from biting someone."
To reduce the number of injuries to people and the risk of relinquishment of dogs who bite, American Humane offers the following suggestions:
- Never approach an unknown dog or a dog that is alone without an owner, and always ask for permission before petting the dog.
- Never approach an injured animal – find an adult who can get the help s/he needs
- Never approach a dog that is eating, sleeping or nursing puppies.
- Don't poke, hit, pull, pinch or tease a dog.
For Dog Owners:
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet.
- Interactions between children and dogs should always be monitored to ensure the safety of both your child and your dog.
- Teach your children to treat the dog with respect and not to engage in rough or aggressive play.
- Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
- Never put your dog in a position where s/he feels threatened.
- Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep him/her healthy and to provide mental stimulation.
- Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
- Regular veterinary care is essential to maintain your dog's health; a sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
- Be alert, if someone approaches you and your dog – caution them to wait before petting the dog, give your pet time to be comfortable with a stranger.
American Humane also offers a free online booklet available for families with children called "Pet Meets Baby," providing valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a pet – or a new pet into a home with a child: http://www.americanhumane.org/interaction/programs/humane-education/pet-meets-baby.html