Dogs chomp on more than four million people a year.
Megan Boger of La Belle, Pa., returned from shopping with her mother and ran into the yard to greet the family pet, a part-cocker mutt named Blaze. Seconds later, her mom, Elena Boger, heard a snap and then shrieks from three-year-old Megan. There was blood all over her face from tooth punctures under an eye and around her mouth, she recalls. Elena and her husband rushed their sobbing child to a local hospital. But the injuries were severe enough that the Bogers were sent to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, where a plastic surgeon stitched the gashes.
Little Megan is far from alone in having been the victim of a dog bite. According to a 1994 survey (the most recent) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, some 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs. About 800,000 required medical treatment. Many bites are to children, and most are from family pets or familiar dogs, not strays.
Many bites are treated at home or in a doctor's office, and as a consequence are often not reported to authorities. Meanwhile, there is no ongoing national system for counting dog bites, says the CDC's Dr. Jeffrey Sacks. In some locales bites are reported to the police, in others to the animal-control folks or the health department. Some counties don't collect data at all.
Whatever the exact numbers, medical, veterinary and insurance experts agree: dog bites are on the rise. One reason may be that more people are getting larger, more powerful dogs than in the past. The CDC considers dog bites a serious public-health problem for children. A Pennsylvania study found that 45 percent of children had been bitten. And not only children are at risk. Dog bites are no joke for letter carriers and delivery people.
Dog attacks account for a whopping one-third of all liability claims under renter or homeowner's insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute says that...