More than four million people are bitten by dogs each year despite the fact that these incidents are very preventable.
In honor of National Dog Bite Prevention Week from May 17 to May 23, the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA is helping pet owners and those who come in contact with dogs stay safe by offering helpful reminders and warning signs.
The American Veterinary Medical Association says regardless of breed, all dogs can bite. Pit bull breeds are most commonly named, but the most frequent breeds associated with serious bite injuries also include German Shepherds, Jack Russell Terriers, Rottweilers, Labradors, Collies, Spaniels, and more.
Even if you trust your pet, more than 70 percent of dog bites happen at home. Your family pet may not mean to harm you, but often times children don't know how to approach a dog or know when to stop bothering them.
Out of 34,151 emergency room visits and 2,358 inpatient hospitalizations for dog bites in the state between 2008 and 2012, more than 12,500 of those involved kids ages 14 and younger, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
"Even very young children can learn how to respect a dog's space and approach them safely," says Michelle Ramos, Director of Education for the Arizona Animal Welfare League and Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in a news release.
"When a child is very outgoing, they forget that the animal may not want to be approached at certain times, and that it may react because it's startled or protecting its food. The good news is, kids can learn the right way to interact with animals."
AAWL & SPCA says some things to remember when dealing with children around pets are:
- Always supervise children around pets, even if that pet belongs to you
- Never surprise or scare a dog who is sleeping, eating or not expecting you
- Never take food, toys or bones away from a dog
- Do not let your child approach, touch or hug a dog that does not belong to them unless the owner gives permission
- Dogs may show signs that they are stressed or anxious if they yawn, put their ears back, stiffen and stare at you, change body language quickly, growl or otherwise act out of the ordinary.
Get more information on why dogs bite, what to do if you are bitten, how to read dog body language and more important tips on the AVMA website.
AAWL & SPCA offers several educational camps for children, classes to reduce aggressive behavior in dogs and other behavior-correcting resources.