Of the 4.7 million Americans bitten by dogs annually, more than half are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. TheU.S. Postal Service, the medical community, veterinarians and the insurance industry are working together to educate the public that dog bites are avoidable.
Between 12 and 20 people die from dog attacks annually, according to the CDC.
To avoid attacks by dogs:
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Don't run past a dog. The dog's natural instinct is to chase and catch you.
- If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact. Try to remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
- Never approach a strange dog, especially one that's tethered or confined.
- Don't disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.
- Anyone wanting to pet a dog should first obtain permission from the owner.
- Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting the animal.
- If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
- If you are knocked down by a dog, curl into a ball and protect your face with your hands.
Suggestions for responsible pet owners:
- Obedience training can teach a dog to behave properly and help owners control their dogs.
- When letter carriers and others who are not familiar with your dog come to your home, keep your dog inside, in another room away from the door.
- In protecting their territory, dogs may interpret people's actions as a threat.
- Spay or neuter your dog. Neutered dogs are less likely to roam.
- Dogs that receive little attention or handling, or are left tied up for long periods of time, frequently turn into biters.
If you are bitten:
- Rinse the bite area with soapy water.
- Elevate limb(s) that have been bitten.
- Apply antiseptic lotion or cream. Watch the area for signs of infection for several days after the incident.
- For deeper bites or puncture wounds, apply pressure with a clean bandage or towel to stop the bleeding. Then wash the wound, dry it and cover with a sterile dressing. Don't use tape or butterfly bandages to close the wound.
- It's a good idea to call your child's physician because a bite could require antibiotics or a tetanus shot. The doctor also can help you to report the incident.
- If your child is bitten severely, call 911 or go to the emergency room.
When going to the emergency room, advise the personnel of:
- Your tetanus vaccination status;
- Vaccine status of the dog;
- Who the dog owner is; and,
- If the dog has bitten before.