April 8-14 is National Dog Bite Awareness Week. While we hope you will never be bitten by a dog, it's important to know that dog bites can be extremely serious. It's also important to realize that any dog can bite under the right circumstances -- even good dogs.
Children, the elderly and postal carriers are the groups most likely to be affected by serious dog bite injuries. With approximately 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, there are plenty of opportunities for people to encounter dogs in dangerous circumstances or at just the wrong moment.
In 2016, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were almost 29,000 reconstructive surgeries performed due to dog bite injuries. Last year, 6,244 postal workers were attacked by dogs. And, 2017 saw some $700 million in dog bite claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Luckily, most dog bites are preventable with a little information. Here are some tips from the Humane Society on how to avoid getting bitten:
- Dogs have personal space just like people do. Respect that space.
- It's safest to assume that any strange dog is dangerous.
- Never approach an unfamiliar dog, especially if it is tied up or confined.
- Whenever you encounter a dog, pay attention to its body language. Tension, a stiff tail, ears laid back, eyes wide with whites showing, and a furrowed brow are all signs that a dog is uncomfortable and may become aggressive. Also notice if a dog seems to be yawning, flicking its tongue or backing away from you.
- If an aggressive dog approaches you, try to remain calm in order to avoid adding to the tension.
- Don't turn your back on the dog or try to run away; a dog's instinct will be to chase you.
- Remain still, arms at your sides, and avoid making eye contact with the dog as that can be perceived as aggressive.
- If the dog attacks, try "feeding" the dog your purse, jacket or anything you have with you.
- If you should fall or be knocked down, curl up into a ball with your face down and your hands around your ears. Remain motionless and try not to scream or roll.
- If you are bitten, wash any wounds thoroughly with warm water and soap. Contact your doctor about any concerns.
- Contact animal control if you do not know the owner of the dog that bit you.
- Consider contacting a lawyer to ensure you receive sufficient compensation to care for your injuries and trauma.