While Mother Nature has apparently not received the message that Spring has sprung (at least here in upstate New York), nonetheless with May coming quickly on the coat tails of a drizzly April, we celebrate the arrival of National Dog Bite Prevention Month, with the third week in May being traditionally recognized as “Dog Bite Prevention Week.”
Despite media sensationalism of bites, the truth is that, for as often as dogs and humans come in contact with each other, serious bites are rare. The best resource I’ve found that examines rationally and realistically bite risk statistics and prevalence is Janis Bradley’s Dogs Bite, But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous. Bites are relatively rare, and bites which cause serious damage are even less common. Unfortunately, in the majority of bites which do cause extensive injury or death, the victims are often children or elderly individuals.
According to Bradly, lightening, forklifts, buckets, balloons, human caregivers, playground equipment, buckets, bicycles, slippers, and bare feet present greater risks for causing significant medical damage than dogs. There are many more forklift deaths per year, and if you think about it, forklifts aren’t nearly as prevalent in our society – I see dozens of dogs every day (even outside of my profession, I’ll see a dozen or more on a walk around the neighborhood), and rarely see a forklift.
Despite the relative infrequency of bites, it is true that even small dogs can cause great damage with their teeth, and if we are to welcome dogs into our society, we must find ways to integrate them in a way which promotes safety for dogs and people. Bites don’t happen often, and most of the time, the damage is minimal – there is a big difference between a dog bite which is backed by very little pressure and a dog bite which sends someone to the hospital or worse. There are things that pet owners can do to reduce bite risks. There are steps that parents can take to keep their children safe around dogs. There are steps that any citizen can take to protect him or herself, regardless of age or dog-ownership status.
I’ll be talking more about what you can do to help keep dogs, yourself, and your neighbors safe later this week. I will be referring frequently to my favorite bite prevention resource, Doggone Safe. Because the welfare of dogs and the safety of people is very important to me, this is one of my favorite non-profit organizations. Doggone Safe is committed to educating parents, professionals whose jobs bring them into frequent contact with dogs (delivery persons, home repair professionals, etc.), dog trainers, and communities on dog safety and bite prevention. Equally important, they provide resources which support dog bite victims – through partnership with the Courtney Trempe Memorial Fund for Dog Bite Victim Support and through referring victims to appropriate therapeutic resources for skills and tools to deal with trauma, including bite victim support groups. If you’re looking for a great way to help dogs and people enjoy each other better and more safely, this is a great organization to support – through donation, shopping around in their store, or hiring a Doggone Safe Presenter to come give Be a Tree presentations at your local school, Girl or Boy Scout troop, 4-H club, or community event – in doing so, you can participate in the Dog Bite Prevention Challenge – the goal is to educate at least 50,000 children in one week!
You may also choose to contact a local radio station and ask if they’d be willing to play one of Doggone Safe’s PSA’s for Dog Bite Prevention week.
Today, I’d like feedback from all of you, dogsters! What steps do you think you personally can take to promote bite prevention both through your own dog’s training and in your community as an advocate for dogs and responsible pet owner?