One million people each year require medical attention because of dog attacks. It's believed that several million more bites go unreported.
A dozen people a year die from attacks, and children account for 60 percent of the victims.
Not worried about the human cost of dog bites? What about when it bites you in the wallet? Owners of biting dogs can be subject to civil and criminal liability.
In January, a Kansas woman was convicted of second degree murder when her dogs fatally mauled an 11-year-old boy.
Insurance companies paid an estimated $250 million on dog bite liability claims on 1996, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
The big-picture cost to society is about $1 billion (yep, that's a "b") per year. And, it's getting worse by about 2 percent a year.
Most victims are bitten by dogs owned by family or friends, but your pet's doctor has tips for preventing most of these bites:
Suppose you're alone with a dog you don't know; how do you protect yourself?
- Ask your pet's doctor for advice in choosing an appropriate pet.
- Neutered pets are one-third less
- likely to bite. Have your pet neutered.
- Socialize your dog so that it feels at ease around people and other animals.
- Don't put your dog in situations where it may feel threatened or teased. Taking a young, untrained, unsocialized dog into a crowd is asking for trouble. On parade day, leave your puppy at home. This goes double for snakes and iguanas.
- Obey leash laws - don't let your dog roam. When it's time to go for a walk, a dog on a leash can more easily be controlled when you meet a stranger, especially a child.
- If a youngster reaches to pet your dog and frightens him, you can use the lease to pull the dog out of the child's reach.
- Train your dog to respond to basic commands such as "stay," "leave it" and "come."
- Maintain good health with proper vaccinations and internal and external parasite control.
- Be alert to signs that your dog is uncomfortable or feeling aggressive or threatened.
- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
- Teach young children to be careful around pets. Children should be taught not to approach strange dogs and to ask permission from a dog's owner before petting the dog.
- Never disturb a dog that has puppies or is sleeping or eating.
Remember, all dogs can bite if provoked.
Children can be taught skills to avoid dog bites through an Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine activity book, "Fido: Friend or Foe?," available from State Farm Insurance Company by visiting these Web sites: www.statefarm.com or www.avma.org.
- Don't run away. Be still until the dog loses interest in you and leaves. If you must move, back away slowly until you're out of the dog's sight. Avoid eye contact and remain calm. Try to keep your fear hidden.
- If you fall or are knocked to the ground, minimize injury by curling into a ball, placing your hands over your head and neck and protecting your face.
- Force objects of clothing or accessories between you and the attacking dog such as your purse, your jacket or your bicycle.
Other Internet sites of interest regarding dog bite avoidance include The Human Society of the United States, www.hsus.org; Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/od/oc/media/fact/dogbites.htm; and Dog Owner's Guide, www.canismajor.com.