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Dog Bites Are On The Rise

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Mean dogOne form of injury that is becoming more and more common in modern America is the dog bite. As a matter of fact, the number of bite-related injuries reported annually almost doubled in recent years. Maryanne Mott, a reporter for Business Week, shares the unfortunate statistics:

Each year, approximately 4.5 million people in the United States are bitten by dogs, with some bites needing emergency treatment. Over a 16-year period, in fact, the number of hospital admissions caused by dog bites nearly doubled, increasing from 5,100 in 1993 to 9,500 in 2008, according to a recent report by the U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Especially troubling is that children make up a significant proportion of dog bite victims:

In 2008, dog bites sent an average of 866 people every day — nearly 40 percent of them children and teens — to emergency rooms throughout the country for treatment. Twenty-six patients a day required hospitalization, the report noted.

Dog bites primarily occur when the dog feels threatened — specifically, when the dog feels it is defending its territory. The Des Moines Register recently addressed this very topic:

Territoriality is one of the most common causes of dog attacks, agreed Sophia Yin, a California veterinarian, applied animal behaviorist and author of Dogs also instinctively react to humans who scream or flail their arms, triggering the dog’s prey drive.

‘Like a drunken sailor in a bar fight, the dog isn’t necessarily trying to be mean, he’s just overly excited and reacting to the situation,’ Yin said.

A contributing factor in these situations is often a mistaken assumption that just because a dog is wagging its tail it’s friendly. Dana Fedman, a certified professional dog trainer and owner of Pupstart Family Dog Training in Des Moines, stresses this in The Des Moines Register article. She also notes that walkers and joggers should be wary of invisible fences.

Another thing noted in the Business Week article is the misconception that most dog bites are perpetrated by strays, when in fact owned dogs bite more often.

Image by jadduke (Judith Whelan), used under its Creative Commons license.


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