Every year, about 4.7 million dog bites are estimated to occur in California and throughout the country, with more than half of the victims of these bites under the age of 14. To call attention to (and reduce) this large number, the week of May 21-26 has been designated as Dog Bite Prevention Week in the U.S.
It is not terribly surprising that children between the ages of 5 and 9 are the most common victims of dog bites. Children are curious by nature, especially about animals, and they are taught that dogs are their friends. However, most children do not know how to properly treat animals, yelling at them or pulling on their fur or ears, which can easily spook or anger a dog and result in a dangerous situation.
Certainly, a dog owner is the person who is responsible should their pet cause any harm to a child or anyone else, regardless of the severity of the injury. However, there are a few things that parents and dog owners alike can do to prevent these injuries from taking place at all.
First, parents who are adding a dog to their family should pick one that will be a good match with their children. A veterinarian can offer suggestions as to safe, even-tempered breeds that will not pose a significant risk. Second, the pet should be exposed to a variety of people, animals and situations so it becomes well-socialized.
Third, teach your children how to behave around the dog. Kids should not bother a dog if it is eating, sleeping or caring for puppies, and they should not run past a dog. Children of all ages should be supervised when around dogs, but babies and very young children should never be left alone with a dog.
Finally, all dogs should be vaccinated against rabies, so if a bite occurs the victim will not need to undergo the series of rabies vaccinations.
Source: American Academy of Pediatrics, “A Lesson in Dog Safety Can Help Prevent Dog Bites”