Published on Feb 05, 2009 by Edgar Snyder

You Can Prevent Most Dog Bites

You can prevent most dog bites from happening

Last month, 8-year-old Brianna Shanor was killed by her guardian's dog in Beaver County. The girl's body was found in a trailer where the dog was kept chained. Events like these are tragic but also rare – according to experts, dog attacks are hardly ever fatal and most can be prevented.

Each year, approximately 12 to 16 people are attacked and killed by dogs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency said that since they began tracking dog bite statistics in the 1970s, bite rates haven't increased. About 800,000 people seek medical attention for dog bites annually, and 386,000 require treatment in a hospital.

In the past decade, there have been two other fatal dog attacks in western PA. In Westmoreland County in July 2006, 50-year-old Sandra L. Piovesan was mauled by a pack of nine wolf-dog mixes that she raised. In March 2003 in Clarion County, 2-year-old Lily Krajewski was killed by her uncle's dogs. There have been no fatal dog attacks in Allegheny County in the last 34 years, said the county Health Department.

The dogs that are most likely to bite are un-neutered male dogs that spend most of their lives chained and who aren't up-to-date on inoculations, according to veterinarian Bonnie Beaver.

Experts say that it is up to owners and those who are around dogs to prevent attacks. Dr. Beaver said that dog owners need to train their pets and teach them how to behave around people and other animals. In addition, because children are most often bitten by dogs, parents must teach their kids how to behave around dogs and should never leave them unattended, even around family pets. She said that this would dramatically decrease the number of dog bites that occur.

Local shelters and dog training clubs offer classes for dogs and their owners as well as programs for school and youth organizations that teach children how treat dogs and how to avoid being bitten or attacked. The following dog bite prevention tips are offered by the CDC and American Veterinary Medical Association:

  • Ask permission from the dog owner before petting the dog
  • Let a strange dog sniff you before touching it
  • Pet gently, avoiding the dog's head, face, and tail
  • If faced with a hostile dog, remain calm, avoid eye contact, stand still or back away slowly
  • If you're knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your arms
Source: "Most dog bites are avoidable." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. January 26, 2009.
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