Dog bites are a serious public health problem that inflicts considerable physical and emotional damage on victims. In the United States, there are more than 53 million dogs sharing the human-canine bond, more dogs per capita than in any other country in the world. An estimated 4.5 million people are bitten each year, although the actual number injured is unknown. Fifty percent of all children will be bitten by a dog before their 12th birthday.
These dreadful statistics are behind a national effort to increase awareness about how to prevent dog bites. This year, National Dog Bite Prevention Week is May 6-22. Every year the Humane Society of the United States sponsors this event to help educate people about avoiding the problem. This year's theme is "Everybody Plays a Part" in preventing dog bites. Dog owners must socialize, train, and safely confine their dogs. People who come in contact with dogs must learn how to act properly to prevent bites. And parents need to explain to their kids how to deal with dogs.
There is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone. But you can significantly reduce the risk by following these steps:
Spay or neuter your dog: This important and routine procedure will reduce your dog's desire to roam free and fight with other dogs, making safe confinement an easier task. Spayed and neutered dogs are much less likely to bite.
Socialize your dog: Introduce your dog to many different people and situations, so he/she is not nervous or frightened under normal social circumstances.
Train your dog: Accompanying your dog to a training class is an excellent way to socialize him and to learn proper training techniques. Never send your dog away to be trained; only you can teach your dog how to behave in your home.
Be a responsible dog owner: License your dog with Calvert County Animal Control, as required by law, and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccinations. For everyone's safety, don't allow your dog to roam alone. Make your dog a member of the family. Dogs who spend a great deal of time alone in the backyard or tied on a chain often become dangerous. Dogs that are well socialized and supervised are much more likely not to bite.
Err on the safe side: If you don't know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. If your dog may panic in crowds, leave him at home. If your dog overreacts to visitors or delivery people, keep him in another room. Until you are confident of his behavior, avoid stressful situations.
If your dog bites someone, act responsibly by taking these steps:
- Confine your dog immediately and check on the victim's condition. If necessary, seek medical help.
- Provide the victim with important information, such as the dog's last rabies vaccination.
- Cooperate with the Animal Control Officer responsible for acquiring information about your dog. Strictly follow quarantine requirements for your dog.
- Do not give the dog away. Because you know your dog is dangerous, you may be held liable for any damage he does, even when he is given to someone else.
For more information on preventing dog bites, please visit http://www.HSUS.com/ or http://www.cdc.gov/.