Every year approximately 4.8 million Americans are bitten by dogs. That’s a staggering statistic when you think about it! That translates to about 2% of the population who will experience being bitten every year! Each year dog-bites send about 350,000 people to a hospital emergency room. 800,000 bites are serious enough to require some kind of medical attention.

Over half of the 4.8 million annual dog-bite victims are children, and kids have a much higher rate of injury by dog-bite than adults, with 26% of child victims requiring medical attention as compared to 12% of adult victims. 

As dog owners, we have a responsibility to control our animals in such a way that we reduce, as much as possible, the risk of them biting someone. Our responsibility to people who may come into contact with our dogs is obvious. None of us wants to see our dogs bite someone. What is less obvious is our responsibility to our dogs to insure that we do everything we can to avoid situations where our dog could bite someone. 

It seems that people seldom consider the consequences of a dog bite incident, beyond the obvious legal liability. Many dog owners think they are covered by their homeowners insurance and don’t give their liability any more thought. What they may be forgetting however, is in the event their dog bites someone; the dog could end up paying with his/her life. Aggressive behavior and biting are two of the most common reasons people cite when leaving their animals at shelters. In the event of a serious bite, a dog can also be ordered by a court to be destroyed. Even in less serious incidents, it is not uncommon for plaintiffs to demand that offending dogs be euthanized as a condition to settle a lawsuit. 

Attorneys who are well versed in dog-bite cases say that provocation on the part of the bite victim is almost never a successful defense strategy. In other words, even if your dog was “provoked” by a bite victim, this will have little bearing in a civil court. 

Knowing this, it stands to reason that we, as dog owners, do everything we can to insure that our dogs never find themselves in a situation where they might be provoked to bite someone. Some obvious examples are situations where the dog is in contact with children, especially kids who aren’t familiar with dogs. Even the most docile dog can become aggressive if disturbed while feeding, so it’s just common sense to insure that your dog is not disturbed while eating. 

Statistics show that most dog-bites occur while the biter is in his/her own yard. It’s a commonly held myth that a “beware of dog” sign will protect you and your dog from the hordes of hungry lawyers waiting to take another dog-bite case. 

If your dog has ever exhibited any form of aggression towards strangers, it’s a good idea to keep him in the back yard or a portion of your property where he won’t encounter people on their way to your front door. Another alarming statistic points to the fact that a dog is more likely to bite when he is on a chain. We can agree that a person who approaches a chained dog is just asking to be a victim but the courts won’t see it that way! 

There are also statistics that show certain breeds are more likely to bite than others. Rather than single out one or two breeds of dog, I think it’s a better idea to remind all dog owners that they have a responsibility, to the public and to their dogs, to do everything they can to prevent a dog-bite incident. 

The best way to avoid a dog-bite incident is to get your dog all the training and socialization it needs to be a good citizen. There are many great resources available for information regarding training and socialization. Just remember that the training books and videos don’t work unless you actually do the lessons together with your dog. By providing the necessary training you can insure that your dog is comfortable and confident in most situations. The training will also provide you with the first hand knowledge of situations that might provoke your dog. This knowledge will enable you to avoid such situations.  

Those dog gone statistics show that one in five Americans will be bitten this year. Please do everything you can to be sure that your dog isn’t one of the biters.