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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, & community efforts.

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Dog Bite Prevention

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Image of a dog This year, National Dog Bite Prevention Week was observed from May 18–24, 2014. This event was coordinated by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the U.S. Postal Service and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Statewide, the Florida Department of Health, the Florida Animal Control Association, and the Florida Veterinary Medical Association have collaborated on encouraging all Floridians to learn how to avoid being bitten by a dog. For more information on dog bite avoidance and the national and local Dog Bite Prevention Campaigns see the links below.

Did You Know:

  • Children between 1 and 9 years of age are at the highest risk for dog bites, with boys in this age group at a higher risk than girls?
  • Children under 10 years of age are more likely to be bitten on the head or neck than other age groups?
  • Each year, an average of 2 Floridians die from injuries due to dog bites?
  • Each year, over 600 Floridians are hospitalized due to injuries from dog bites?

An in-depth analysis of 799 dog bites that were reported to Florida Department of Health in Bay County, Florida from January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2010 found that:

  • Children less than 6 years old and boys from 6–14 years of age were the two groups at greatest risk of being bitten by a dog. 

  • Most dog bites (86 percent) which involved children less than 6 years old were from dogs known to the family, and more than half occurred in the home.

  • The cause of bites of over one third (39 percent) of children less than 6 years old was unknown, suggesting some young children may have been unsupervised when in contact with dogs.

  • More than half of dog bites involving persons 15 years and older occurred when the victim attempted to break up a dog fight. These incidents occurred somewhat more frequently in the home or on the dog owner’s property (55 percent) but also occurred frequently off the property. 

  • Across all age groups, the most common cause of dog bites (26 percent) was inappropriate behavior management (interacting with the dog while it was eating food, chewing on a toy, roughhousing, or touching or moving the dog against its will). These types of bites occurred most frequently in the dog owner’s home or on their property (71 percent of cases). 

  • Another common cause of dog bites was protective behavior (24 percent of cases), which occurred regularly both on and off the dog owner’s property. 

  • Dogs that were off their owner’s property and off-leash were the source of approximately one third (32 percent) of all dog bites reported, and most (89 percent) involved dogs unknown to the victim.

Data extracted from: Matthias J, M Templin, MM Jordan, D Stanek. Cause, setting and ownership analysis of dog bites in Bay County, Florida from 2009 to 2010. Zoonoses and Public Health. published on-line 8 Apr 2014: DOI: 10.1111/zph.12115.

Pet Sterilization

Animals that are not neutered, particularly male dogs, may be at increased risk of biting people. Thousands of healthy and loving dogs and cats are put to death every year in the U.S. because pet owners do not spay or neuter their pets.

Safety Tips For Dog Owners:

  • Before getting a dog, seek the advice of a veterinarian or animal shelter personnel about which dog is right for your family and your lifestyle.
  • Confine your dog in a fenced yard or "dog run" when it is outside.
  • Do not leave your dog on a chain for long periods of time. Chained dogs are more likely to bite.
  • Don't play aggressive games with your dog.
  • Don't put your dog in situations where it may feel threatened or teased.
  • Follow leash laws. Don't let your dog roam freely.
  • Keep your dog healthy with regular check-ups and a vaccination program tailored to your dog's needs.
  • Make sure your veterinarian vaccinates your dog against rabies with a licensed rabies vaccine.
  • See a veterinarian promptly if your dog is sick or injured. Illness and pain can make a dog more likely to bite.
  • Spay or neuter your dog.
  • Socialize your dog so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Train your dog to consistently obey basic commands such as "stay," "sit," and "come."

Safety Tips for Adults and Children:

  • Adults should never leave an infant or young child alone with any dog, not even the family pet.
  • Children should never approach or play with dogs unless supervised by an adult.
  • Children should tell an adult if they see a stray dog or a dog acting strangely.
  • Don't disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Don't look a dog right in the eyes.
  • If a dog knocks you over, roll into a ball, cover your face and stay still.
  • If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between yourself and the dog, such as a backpack or a bicycle.
  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog and never scream around a dog.

If Bitten:

  • Control bleeding and wash the area of the bite with soap and water.
  • Report the bite to your local county health department, animal control agency, or police.
  • Seek medical attention immediately.


For more information on prevention, see:
http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/pets/2010-01-13-petsurvey13_ST_N.htm

Florida Map: Rate of Dog Bite Emergency Department Vsits per 100,000 by Zipcode in 2011
Table showing rates

Florida Map: Rate of Dog Bite Hospitalization Vsits per 100,000 by Zipcode in 2011
Table showing rates

CDC bite prevention

Publications on Dog Bites

AVMA: What you should know about dog bite prevention.

U.S. Postal Service: Tips for protecting your letter carrier from dog bites.

State Farm Insurance: More information on dog bite prevention.

Humane Society of the United States: Stay Dog Bite Free! Questions and answers, resources for children.