By Peggy Bender
Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control
FORT WAYNE—According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 800,000 Americans seek medical attention for dog bites each year; half of which are children. The rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children ages five to nine years, and nearly two thirds of injuries among children ages four years and younger are to the head or neck region.
Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control reminds parents to supervise the interactions between children and dogs. According to shelter spokesperson Peggy Bender, “Young children often lack the skills to understand when an animal is uncomfortable or just wants to be left alone, so the key to safety is supervision and education. Children don’t understand how quickly a dog being teased can jump a fence or break a chain to bite them.”
Animal Care & Control strongly advocates bite prevention to keep children safe by providing bite free materials to area classrooms, tour groups and at community events. Parents should review safety rules throughout the summer months when dog bites increase.
“By teaching children to respect the dogs they own and to never tease a dog through a fence, animal bites are reduced.”
BITE PREVENTION SAFETY RULES
• Be cautious around dogs you don’t know.
• Treat your own pets with respect and gentle handling.
• NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
• Avoid unfamiliar dogs. If a dog approaches to sniff you, stand still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat.
• Don’t pet a dog by reaching through a fence.
• Always ask permission before petting someone’s dog.
• Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things.
• Never disturb a dog that’s caring for puppies, sleeping or eating.
• If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run.
• If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face.
PREVENT YOUR DOG FROM BITING
• Avoid highly excitable games like wrestling or tug-of-war.
• Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
• Keep your dog healthy with yearly vaccinations. How your dog feels directly affects how it behaves.
• Spay or neuter your pet. Altered dogs are less likely to bite.
• Don’t chain your dog. Chaining increases aggression in dogs.
• Socialize your dog or young puppy, so it feels at ease around people and other animals. Gradually expose your dog to a variety of situations under controlled circumstances; continue that exposure on a regular basis.
• Don’t allow your dog to be in places where it might feel threatened or be teased.
• Attend a dog training class. The basic commands “sit,” “stay,” “off,” and “come” can be incorporated into fun activities that build a bond of obedience and trust between pets and people.
What Should I Do If My Dog Bites Someone?
Even if the bite can be explained (e.g., someone stepped on your dog’s tail), it’s important to take responsibility for your dog’s actions by taking these steps:
• Confine your dog away from the scene of the bite.
• Check on the victim’s condition. Wash wounds with soap and water. Professional medical advice should be sought.
• Report the bite. Call Fort Wayne Animal Care & Control inside the city and the sheriff’s department in the county.
• Consult your veterinarian for advice about dog behavior that will help prevent similar problems in the future.
• If someone else’s dog bites you, seek medical treatment, and then call authorities with everything you know about the dog to help animal control officers locate the dog.
Dogs are wonderful companions. By acting responsibly, owners not only reduce dog bite injuries, but also enhance the relationship they have with their dogs.
This article originally appeared in the June 26 print edition.