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Back in November, we focused on a personal injury issue that–if all you think of in relation to injuries are car accidents–may have seemed somewhat unusual: dog bites. But believe it or not, the issue is a growing one, and a type of accident which accounts for more than $489 million dollars each year in insurance payouts! There are plenty of signs that dog bite incidence is up: California insurers have recently reported record numbers of dog bite claims, and in fact, next week (May 18-24) has been designated “Dog Bite Prevention Week” by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Even in light of these statistical increases, dog bites have been in the news, since a video surfaced showing a family cat saving a young boy from a dog that had bit him! Still, in spite of the drama surrounding these kinds of events, there is nothing entertaining about the extent of injury–up to and including fatality–that can arise from such incidents, and in most cases, a cat is no defense against an angry canine. Worse still, statistics show that children are the most common target for dogs; in fact, half of all dog bites involve children under 12 years old, and the rates are even higher among children 5 to 9 years old.

Our previous blog post dealt with dog bites and animal attacks from a liability perspective–and as a personal injury law firm, we are dedicated to demanding fair compensation from insurance companies in the very unfortunate event of a dog bite. Still, there are thankfully larger-scale preventative efforts in place to limit the extent of animal attacks and hopefully lower those alarming statistical rates. The problem is, they don’t always work. For instance, many communities have undertaken what’s known as “Breed Specific Legislation,” barring ownership of dog breeds like pit bulls and Rottweilers that are thought to be “more aggressive.” And sure, while it may seem like a well-meaning and justifiable action, these actions have done little to lower the amount of animal attacks, even in those controlled and specified communities. 

As we can see, the best preventative measures that we can undertake fall under the category of “awareness.” This is the very point of the commendable “Dog Bite Prevention Week” work being done by the AVMA, and we encourage you to examine their materials in the link above. Beyond that, it is important to establish guidelines for being around dogs, especially for our children. Being calm, kind and cautious around dogs, especially ones we don’t know, is a great rule of thumb for kids. Similarly, dog owners are advised to train and treat their dogs properly, and also to restrain them according to leash laws in their area. The number of animal attacks is something of a shock, but it’s a preventable one if we follow safe practices and ensure that our relationship with “man’s best friend” is a positive one!