Dogs are universally known as man's best friends, and, as a dog lover, I can attest to this proclamation. But that doesn't mean your neighbor's dog is your best friend. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year and more than half the victims are children. The American Pet Products Association goes so far as to predict that half of all children in this country will suffer a dog bite before the age of twelve. Statistics show that a large number of dog bites will be from a neighbor's or friend's dog. Florida ranks in the top 10 states for dog bite personal injury claims. It ranks number 7 in this category, but ranks number 1 in average cost per dog bite personal injury claim, a reflection of the severity of the injuries suffered here in Florida as a result of dog bites.
As with anything, awareness is the first line of defense, and the road to dog bite prevention starts with recognizing the factors that contribute to a dog's tendency to bite. These factors are the following: heredity, training, socialization, health and the behavior of humans around the dog. While children will inevitably be taught that dogs are known as man's best friend (and rightfully so), they should also be taught that dogs are animals and must be treated with care and respect. Some basic tips they should learn as they are exposed to this beloved pet are the following: never stare into a dog's eyes, tease a dog, approach a chained dog, touch an off-leash dog, run or scream if approached by a loose dog, play with a dog while it is eating, or touch a dog while it is sleeping.