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How can I protect my children from animal bites?

Did you know that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 4.5 million Americans who suffer injury from dog bites every year? If you live in Rhode Island, chances are that you know someone who has been harmed by an animal bite, probably from a domestically owned dog. With children suffering injury most often, this issue is a major concern for parents nationwide. Parents and dog owners need to know how to limit the risk of causing a dog bite, and they should also know what to do in case a dog does become aggressive.

What are the risk factors that make dog bite claims worse? In many instances, children suffer serious injury from dog bites because no able-bodied adults were available to intervene and help them during the incident. Further, many victims suffer an animal bite injury because they do not realize that a dog is injured, sick or old and simply needs to be treated differently. Finally, dog bite incidents can be attributable to the fact that the dog was previously abused or neglected, or its behavior has not been properly managed although it has shown aggression in the past.

How can I lower the risk of my child suffering a dog bite? Parents can protect their children by refusing to allow them to be left along with a dog. Without a responsible, physically able person to assist, even the sweetest dog can cause serious injury in an animal attack. Further, children should be taught how to properly interact with animals -- this includes refraining from pulling on their fur, tails and ears, among other inappropriate behaviors.

Can an animal attack still occur if I follow these rules? Absolutely. Even the best pet owner can have an animal go astray and bite a victim. In that instance, civil litigation may be necessary to compensate for your family's pain and suffering, disfigurement, medical expenses and other costs.

Source: Dogster, "How to Prevent Dog Bites," Annie Phenix, Feb. 16, 2017

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