“We often hear two tall tales at the Postal Service — ‘the check’s in the mail,’ and ‘don’t worry, my dog won’t bite’,” said Delores Killette, USPS vice president and Consumer Advocate in a news release.
4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, the majority of them children. One in five requires medical attention, and an average of 16 people die. Postal workers, delivery drivers, and others whose jobs take them into neighborhoods and yards are also at risk.
Most dog bites are preventable, so the Postal Service and a variety of concerned organizations have been celebrating this year’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week by promoting awareness and responsible ownership.
“Warm and wonderful relationships are shared between more than 72 million pet dogs and their owners in the United States,” said Dr. Gail C. Golab, director of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Animal Welfare Division. “To protect those relationships, everyone must take responsibility for preventing dog bite injuries.”
Dog Bite Injuries Can Be Severe – Even Deadly
Plastic surgeon Loren Schechter laid out the staggering facts: “More than 30,000 reconstructive procedures after dog bites were performed last year, up eight percent since 2008. Unfortunately, many of these surgeries were performed on children.”
“Children are frequently bitten on the face, which can result in severe lacerations, infection or scarring,” she added. Kelly Voigt, founder of the nonprofit Prevent The Bite, was savagely bitten by a dog when she was seven. She needed 100 stitches to her face.
Tips to Avoid Dog Bite Injuries to Children and Adults
“Even the gentlest dog, if it is physically or mentally unhealthy, is in pain, feels threatened, or is protecting its food or a favorite toy, can bite,” explains the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Golab.
Never leave infants or children alone with dogs, and begin teaching children early about how to avoid being bitten.
To prevent being bitten by a dog:
- Never approach a strange dog. Dogs who are chained or confined can be under stress and more inclined to bite.
- If you choose to pet a dog, first let it see you and sniff your loosely-closed hand. Pay attention to its body language.
- Never run from or past a dog – their natural instincts are to chase.
- If you feel threatened, don’t scream or run. Try to be still and avoid eye contact. Wait until the dog leaves if possible, or back slowly away.
- If you think a dog is about to attack, slowly try to put something, such as a bicycle or backpack between you and the dog.
Responsible dog owners should:
- Take the time to choose the right dog for your lifestyle. There is no real evidence that some dogs are more dangerous than others, but larger and more energetic breeds need more from their owners.
- Spay or neuter your dog.
- Get obedience training so you can control your dog.
- Socialize your dog around children, adults and other dogs in carefully controlled situations.
- Take good care of your dog – don’t leave it tied up for long periods of time. Spend time with your dog. Keep it well fed, watered and sheltered so it feels secure.
- Get appropriate veterinary care to avoid illness or chronic pain that can incline dogs to bite.
- When visitors come to your door, keep your dog inside, preferably in another room.
- Don’t let your child interact with strangers in the presence of your dog – your dog’s instinct may be to protect the child.
- “Postal Service Needs Help Preventing Dog Bites” (U.S. Postal Service news release, May 13, 2010)
- “Dog Bite Prevention Week: Five facts you need to know and prevention tips” (Examiner.com Tallahassee, via Animal Rescue Examiner, May 18, 2010)