In recognition of Dog Bite Prevention Week from April 9 to 15, the Division of Public Health Office of Animal Welfare aims to reduce dog bite occurrences with tips for anyone who comes in contact with dogs.
Dog bites are often preventable with responsible dog ownership and correct behavior around dogs.
In 2016, 1,564 dog bites to humans were reported to the Delaware Division of Public Health. Owners may be liable if their dog bites a person or another animal, but having control of one’s dog can decrease bite risks.
If a dog is involved in a bite and does not have a current rabies vaccination, it will face 10-day quarantine at an animal shelter at the owner’s expense. If it is vaccinated, it will face a 10-day quarantine at home. A dog owner may also face fines for failure to vaccinate and possibly dangerous dog charges depending on the circumstances.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and American Veterinary Medical Association provide tips to help prevent dog bites:
— Never pet a dog without asking permission from its owner.
— Leave a dog alone while it is eating or sleeping.
— Know common dog bite triggers, such as when a dog is in pain, injured or ill. Also be cautious when a dog is exposed to loud noises, crowds and people in uniforms, costumes or hats.
— Seek help from a veterinarian and/or dog behavior specialist the first time a dog shows any aggressive behavior.
Tips for families with children:
— Never leave a child younger than 10 years old alone with a dog, even if that child is familiar with the dog.
— Teach children not to run, yell, hit or make sudden movements toward any dog.
— Instruct children that a dog’s bed, crate and food bowl are off-limits places where the dog should be left alone and never bother a dog that is eating or in its bed or crate.
— Inform children to quietly walk away if approached by an unfamiliar dog. If the dog continues to advance, stand completely still like a tree.
In addition to practicing responsible behavior around dogs, the AVMA recommends socialization for all dogs. Some socialization tips include:
— Expose dogs to regular positive and diverse experiences to acclimate them to a variety of situations.
— Provide praise, play and treats to reward dogs for positive social interactions with people and other animals.
— Develop a plan with a veterinarian and/or dog behaviorist for dogs that have special behavioral needs.