Dog Bites: a Serious Public Health Problem

Each year, almost five million people are bitten or attacked by dogs. Dog bites are a serious public health problem that can cause both physical and emotional damage to victims and considerable cost to communities.

Insurer State Farm paid more than $90 million as a result of the nearly 3,500 dog bite claims in 2010. This is one of the reasons that State Farm recognizes National Dog Bite Prevention Week, sponsored by the American Veterinary Medical Association during the week of May 15 – 21.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2009, insurers across the country (U.S.) paid more than $412 million in dog bite claims.

A dog’s tendency to bite depends on such factors as heredity, obedience training, socialization, health, and the victim’s behavior. There are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as there can be responsible and irresponsible owners of each breed.

*The state of Ohio has determined that the pit bull meets the definition of a “vicious dog.” As a result, the owners of pit bulls or any American Staffordshire terrier mix are subject to specific requirements to protect the public from injury by these animals.

State Farm does not provide coverage under its homeowner’s policy in the state for this breed of dog.

Children are frequent victims of dog bites. In fact, 60 percent of all dog bite victims are children under the age of 12. Tragically, of the 33 dog bites that resulted in death last year, 20 of these fatalities were young children.

State Farm suggests:

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Start teaching young children — including toddlers — to be careful around pets.
  • Children must be taught not to approach strange dogs.
  • Always ask permission from a dog’s owner before petting any dog.

In addition to stressing responsible pet ownership, State Farm encourages responsible behavior and caution around dogs, including family pets. Under the right circumstances, it says, any dog might bite.

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