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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 dog-bite-related medical treatment costs $1 billion a year. Homeowner-liability claims paid about $250 million of that in 1996.
One provider of liability coverage, MetLife Auto & Home, refuses coverage to many homeowners who have dogs with a history of biting or to those who own a breed they believe most prone to bite, including German shepherds, pit bulls, Doberman pinschers, Rottweilers, chows, huskies and Alaskan malamutes. Although any breed can bite, these breeds tend to be responsible for the most bites, the worst bites, and many of the dozen or so dog-bite fatalities every year.
How can you protect yourself and your children, and prevent your pet from becoming part of the problem? Some common sense will help:
Bad matches between a dog's temperament and a family's personality are sure to cause trouble. People can fall in love with a cute puppy, then find out six months later that they got more dog than they bargained for or one whose personality is different from what they imagined.
Quotes talked about in this paper
- "Have you ever seen an Akita puppy?" asks Diane Allevato, executive director of the Marin County, California, Humane Society. "Theyfre gorgeous! But chances are that puppy will grow up to be an aloof, one-person or one-family dog. Itfs the way the dog is supposed to be. So if you wanted a dog the whole soccer team could love, donft choose a loyal-to-one-person dog; he could become a biter."
- "We promote adopting mixed breeds because you often get the best of both parents," says Allevato.
- "I see it all the time in parks and on the street," says Allevato. "A dog snarls or snaps at a stranger, and the owner says, eItfs okay, hefs just scared.f Well, maybe so. But it is not appropriate for a dog to snarl, growl, snap or bite in these common situations."
- "Many kidsf normal behaviors - like running and squealing - look to a dog like the actions of prey," says the CDCfs Dr. Sacks. "That just naturally incites a dogfs basic predatory instincts."
- "Our biggest concern with banned-breed lists is that people may feel a certain dog is not a danger because his breed isnft on the list," says Dr. Leslie Sinclair, director of veterinary issues for companion animals for the Humane Society of the United States. "I canft say it too often: any dog can bite."
- "good with dogs" often end up getting bitten, notes Dr. Sinclair.
- "Take Rottweilers," says Pat Hubbard, director of operations at the Humane Society of Southern Arizona. "They can make very sweet, loyal family dogs. But you have to be very serious about training them from the start."
- "These behaviors are unacceptable for dogs who are family pets," she says. "And when left uncorrected they give dogs the clear message that aggression is acceptable."
- "Make sure your dog meets as many new people each day as possible, especially when young," says Robin Kovary, ...
Sports mentioned in this paper
Names included in this term paper
Megan, Diane Allevato, Itfs, Dr. Jeffrey Sacks, Dr. Leslie Sinclair, Megan Boger, Blaze, Elena Boger, Pat Hubbard, Elena, Carol Lea Benjamin, German shepherds, Robin Kovary, Carolyn Boatner,
Organizations mentioned in this report
Bogers, Humane Society, CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Insurance Information Institute, Reader's Digest, Humane Society of Southern Arizona,
Locations talked about in this research material
Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, La Belle, Charlotte, United States, Signal Mountain, New York, Tenn., California, NC, Marin County,
Keywords included in this research material
bites, dog bites, dogs, Dog attacks, breed, stray dog, dog trainer, Dog Problems, Humane Society, itfs, Megan, a mother, new people, medical treatment, puppy, Too many puppies, aggressive, the humane society, experts, Insurance Information Institute, biting, pets, plumber, no children, aggressive behavior, Jeffrey Sacks, Family Friendly, No Excuses, back yard, to let, letter carriers, pit bulls, common sense, spay or neuter, plastic surgeon, executive director, family room, Marin County, German shepherds, Disease Control, insurance policies, pack animals, Labrador retriever, Southern Arizona, companion animals, health department, soccer team, eye contact, United States, New York,