Not all dogs are “man’s best friend.” Under the right conditions, even a friendly family pet can turn vicious, posing a danger to children and adults. Although we may consider our dogs to be members of the families, they are animals with instincts and they can turn aggressive if provoked.
Just in time for National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 17-23, here’s what you need to know about dog bites, and steps you can take to prevent them.
The Facts: Children are at Higher Risk of Injury from Dog Bites
Emergency department visits for dog bites by age group in Massachusetts per 100,000 residents were reported by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health:
- 1: children 0 – 4
- 2: children 5 – 9
- 9: children 10 – 14
- 2: children/adults aged 15 – 29
- 5: adults 30 – 44
- 0: adults 45 – 59
- 8: adults 60 – 74
- 3: adults 75 and older
The MA Department of Public Health also reveals that young children are the most likely to suffer a dog bite to the head, face and neck.
- 73% of dog bites to children ages 0 – 4 were to the head, face and neck.
- 45% of dog bites to children ages 5 – 14 were to the head, face and neck.
- 25% of dog bites for young people ages 14 – 24 were to the head, face and neck.
Injuries to the head, face or neck often leave disfiguring scars, and can be life-threatening. Animal bite wound infections can be serious and difficult to treat. A report issued by Massachusetts General in Boston reveals that 20 percent of dog bites will require medical attention, and 20 percent of dog bites will become infected, most commonly by streptococci, staphylococci and Pasteurella canis infections.
Which Dogs Bite?
A general belief exists that some breeds are more dangerous than others, but in fact, the MA Dept. of Health advises that all dogs are capable of biting when provoked. A report by the American Veterinary Medical Association reports that these myths about certain breeds are often media-driven. Never assume that a more “friendly” breed will keep your children safe from the threat of a dangerous, or even deadly dog attack. Much of how a dog reacts is related to training and the situation rather than the breed.
However, as a rule, larger dogs can inflict greater injuries. The issues that affect the level of injury that could be sustained include:
- Size of the dog
- Jaw power
- Type of perceived threat by dog
Why are Children More Vulnerable?
Several contributing factors make children far more likely to suffer a dog bite. The American Veterinary Medical Association reports that almost half of victims are under 12 years old. The factors that contribute to the high percentage of children who are bitten include the following:
- Natural child curiosity
- Smaller stature
- More likely to grab, touch or reach for dogs
- Lack of understanding of risks.
What You Can Do to Prevent Dog Bites
All parents must be alert to the threat of dog bites to children, including from the family dog. Some of the critical points that can help to reduce the possibility of a serious dog bite injury include:
- Train your dog or get it trained by a professional. It must be trained to obey owner commands.
- Abide by Boston municipal laws regarding leashing and running free.
- Learn how your dog responds to certain threats, and avoid these situations.
- Warn children who approach to stay back.
- Never allow children to run, bike or skate when a dog is present.
- Never approach a dog quickly, straight on, or “sneak up” on it.
- Teach your children that they must not tease, touch, poke or pull on a dog.
- Teach your children not to approach a feeding dog, nursing dog or an animal playing with a toy or other item.
- Never enter a yard, car or residence if you don’t know the dog, or when the owners are not present.
- Staring at a dog is dangerous and could provoke aggressive behavior.
Bitten? We Can Help.
At Kelly & Soto Law, our dog bite injury lawyers can help you seek compensation if you or your loved one has been bitten by a dog in Boston. The injuries sustained can be very serious, subject to dangerous infections, and leave permanent scars – both physical and emotional. Our firm is prepared to evaluate your personal injury claim and to advise you on all the critical issues, including the estimated value of your case, and the time we predict it will require to achieve a final settlement or verdict. Call now for legal help you can trust to handle your dog bite case with confidence and professional skill.