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What dog owners can -- and must do-- to prevent dog bites

Last week, our blog spent some time discussing how the 50 states essentially take one of three approaches concerning liability for dog bites, and how May 15-21 was National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a yearly campaign designed to raise awareness about the importance of responsible pet ownership.

In case you are still harboring doubts as to the need for such an annual event, consider the following statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Over 4.5 million Americans suffer dog bites every year
  • Roughly one in five dog bite victims require medical attention
  • Children are the most likely dog bite victims and their resulting injuries are more likely to be severe

All of this naturally raises the question as to what people must do to minimize the risk of their dog inflicting serious physical and/or emotional injuries on unsuspecting friends, relatives and members of the surrounding community.

The good news, according to the AVMA, is that anyone who either owns a dog or is debating getting a canine friend can mitigate the risk of a dog attack by taking the following steps:

  • Make sure the dog is never thrown into new situations, as this can make it feel threatened and react accordingly. Rather, gradually introduce the dog to all manner of situations under controlled circumstances that facilitate socialization.
  • Ensure that the dog is properly trained, such that they can follow basic commands (i.e., sit, stay, come, no, etc.) and are always kept on a leash while in public.
  • Take steps to safeguard property, such that the dog is safely and properly contained by a fenced yard, kennel or leash of sufficient length.
  • Learn to recognize when the dog is showing signs of stress or aggression, and remove it from the situation as soon as possible.
  • Talk the dog for regular walks to provide mental and physical stimulation, and ensure good health, as unhealthy dogs present a greater bite risk owing to their underlying discomfort.
  • Supervise and, if necessary, limit the interaction of the dog with small children, as they may inadvertently aggravate it.

Please remember that if you've been seriously injured by a dog attack -- puncture wounds, lacerations, permanent scarring, emotional trauma, etc. -- you do have options for seeking justice.

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