Even though it was a really warm summer day, Maureen decided to forego the air conditioning in favor of throwing open the windows to let in the noises of summer: birds chirping, children playing, wind rustling leaves of trees… What she didn’t expect to hear was the sound of alarmed children. She soon saw her 12-year-old son’s friends helping him as he limped towards home. Then she heard the dreadful words no mother wants to hear, “Dog Bite”.
Unfortunately, this happens to many parents each year. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are over 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. annually and the majority of these involve children. Because more than half of the victims are under the age of 18, moms and dads need to educate themselves about dog bite prevention so they can teach their children important lessons. With about 44% of all U.S. households having at least one dog, the chances are pretty high a child is going to run into a dog at some point.
Ohio Kids Dog Bite Prevention Program
We can’t “dog proof” our children but we can raise a dog savvy child. The American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) states that one of the best ways to prevent bites is through information and the internet has many great free resources that can be accessed to obtain dog bite prevention educational materials.
One of these free online resources is the Ohio Kids Dog Bite Prevention Program created by the law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP. It includes a fun, animated video and an online storybook that teach children how to avoid common situations where a dog is prone to bite.
For example, a young boy in the video is starting to approach a sleeping dog to pet him but then remembers the lesson he was taught in the video about never surprising a dog when it is sleeping or eating. The video also incorporates a catchy jingle that warns the young boy every time he is about to make a bad choice with a dog by singing, “No Johnny, No Johnny, No Johnny, No!”. It’s an effective way for children to remember dog bite prevention tips. The Ohio Kids Dog Bite Prevention Program created by Slater & Zurz LLP is intended to be a fun educational tool for parents to share with their children and promote conversations between parent and child that will teach them ways to avoid situations where dogs is likely to attack and bite.
Teach Children To Recognize Breeds of Dogs
An entertaining way to help children identify different breeds of dogs is to play the “Memory” game. Print two pictures of several types of dog breeds and have the child match them. If a dog ever happens to attack the child, he or she may be able to accurately describe the dog by naming the breed which could help the proper authorities in their search locating the dog. While playing the game, let your child talk about whether he has seen this or that kind of dog. This is also a great time to talk about the importance of avoiding stray dogs and dogs that don’t know.
What Makes a Dog Bite
Veterinarians say a dog’s tendency to bite depends on at least 5 interacting factors:
- Early Experiences
- Socialization and Training
- Health (Both Physical and Behavioral)
- The Dog Bite Victim’s Actions
Dog Bite Prevention Starts At Home
Our dogs share our homes and our lives. Sometimes, when they are fast enough, they even share the food right off of our plate!
Any breed of dog can bite and the American Veterinary Medical Association says that making sure a dog is socialized and well-trained will help prevent a dog from biting.
Even before you adopt a dog, check into local obedience schools and dog trainers. Get referrals from friends or family. Ask questions like “Are your trainers certified?” and “Do you use rewards to encourage positive behavior?” Get the kids involved, because you are actually training the dog and your family.
According to Cesar Milan (The Dog Whisperer), your dog’s most important need other than food, water and exercise is discipline from you in the form of rules, boundaries and limitations. You are not being mean by not letting the dog have full access to every room in your home. You are simply giving the dog rules that need to be followed.
Some basic dog discipline might include:
• Keep certain rooms, such as the nursery, off-limits to the dog.
• Infants and small children should never be left alone with the dog.
• It is important to train the dog to be in a calm state before we open the front door to visitors, helping to prevent the possibility of a dog bite (and thus the possibility that we will be on the receiving end of a lawsuit!).
Talk to Your Child’s Pediatrician
Your child’s pediatrician can also be a source with a wealth of information about dog bite prevention. When Maureen took her son Tyler to his doctor to be treated for the bite, she found out that they had several informative pamphlets provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
She looked at this as an opportunity to help Tyler see that his bite might have been avoided if he had taken these few simple precautions:
• Most dogs believe that they are protecting and defending their property. Tyler had taken a shortcut across his neighbor’s yard and “Peppi”, their German Shepherd, was guarding their property. Tyler learned his lesson well and never took that shortcut again.
• Dogs like to chase things! They think that it is a game. Kristen U. found that out the hard way at age 10. “I learned not to run from dogs because most will be inclined to chase you”, she advises. Luckily, her injury was minor.
• When Tyler realized that the dog was running towards him, he started to yell (who wouldn’t?!) and the yelling escalated the situation. Natural reactions such as yelling, running or making any sudden movement tends to make the situation worse. One suggestion the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA) makes is that if you are riding a bike, realize that you will not likely “out-pedal” a running dog so it is better to stop, get off the bike, and put it between you and the dog. This provides a barrier that may prevent or lessen a bite. The dog may not be able to access a person very easily this way and, hopefully, he will lose interest.
• If you see a dog that is running loose, it is best to avoid him. Tyler, upon seeing Peppi, should have gone somewhere else to ride his bike. Some folks know that their dog regularly leaves their yard and yet they refuse to take corrective action, either by training him better, tying him up in the yard, or by putting up a fence. If you have a neighbor like this, you may want to keep a log of dates and times that you see the dog running loose, in case this dog would later bite someone in your family. Having this kind of information will prove invaluable in case of a lawsuit later.
I am thankful that not all bites are severe or result in a life-long fear of dogs. My friend Sharon has turned her scary experience as a child into a learning opportunity: “I was attacked by a German Shepherd when I was a kid. I came onto their property without warning. I will say that it actually helped me. I was terrified of those dogs until the owner showed me how to approach them. Now, I would say they are one of my favorite breeds and I have a wonderful relationship with all animals because of that experience”.
Children do get injured and, even worse, traumatized by the experience. Like my friend Kim says about her husband Ty, a big masculine guy: “He freezes in place when he sees Dobermans. He was viciously attacked by three of them and still has scars on his face from the attack. The physical scars are minor compared with the emotional scars he still carries 35 years later.”
What To Do After Being Bitten By a Dog
In addition to their Ohio Kids Dog Bite Prevention Program, the law firm of Slater & Zurz LLP also has information about what you should do if you or a loved one is bitten by a dog. The main points include:
• Seek immediate medical treatment.
• Record the names of the dog’s owner, harborer or keeper, and all witnesses, along with their contact information.
• File a report about the incident immediately with your local animal control authority or police department. A medical report from the emergency room will most likely not be a sufficient record of the incident.
• If the injury is serious, it’s a good idea to get in touch with an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.
All this information and much more can be found here on Slater & Zurz LLP’s website specifically for people who have become the victim of a dog bite anywhere in Ohio: dogbitesohio.com
The law firm also offers free and confidential consultations with one of their highly experienced dog bite attorneys by calling 1-888-998-9101, chatting with one of their 24-hour live chat representatives or sending them a website message.