Marshall police chief offers residents advice about how to prevent dog bites

Friday, September 7, 2007

The information in this article is provided by American Family Insurance Company and the Marshall Police Department.

According to www.dogbitelaw.com, there is a dog bite epidemic in the United States. There are almost 5 million victims annually -- about 2 percent of the entire population. 800,000 need medical attention. 1,000 per day need treatment in hospital emergency rooms. Between 15 and 20 die per year. Most of the victims who receive medical attention are children, half of whom are bitten in the face. Dog bite losses exceed $1 billion per year, with $345 million paid by insurance.

The problem appears to be growing. In a 7-year period during the 1990's, the number of dogs rose by 2 percent while the number of bites increased by 33 percent. The property/casualty insurance industry paid $250 million for dog bite claims in 1995, $310 million in 2001, and $345.5 million in 2002. Additional losses were paid by other segments of the insurance industry, such as health insurers.

Dog bite liability

The liability that dog ownership presents is a growing concern. Dog bite insurance claim settlements continue to rise and, in turn, affect everyone's rates. Once your dog bites, the incident may jeopardize your property insurance, too.

Nationally, dog bite claims cost policyholders about $2 billion annually. Beyond the financial impact, dog bites often mean permanent injuries, trauma and sometimes death. The family often loses a beloved pet. Many people like dogs. People own about 50 million dogs in the U.S. -- about one dog for every four people or one in every three homes. Tragically, many serious dog bites injure children, so its important to teach them how to act around dogs.

If you own a dog or plan to get one, you should be aware of selection and training issues that could prevent dog bites.

Selection, care and training

Your responsibility as a dog owner begins before you bring a puppy or dog home. Selection of an appropriate breed, training and socialization are all parts of dog ownership.

Research dog breeds and select a dog suitable to your family and life-style. If possible, find out what the puppies' parents are like and how the puppies were raised.

The first year of a dog's life determines much of its adult behavior. Obedience school can be a valuable experience for your dog and its masters. You should be able to control your dog at all times.

Dogs benefit from training and socialization. Socialization means helping the dog learn how to act around your family, in crowds and around other dogs. Take your young dog to different places around people and practice training it on a tight leash.

Unfortunately, biting is a normal, instinctive behavior for dogs. This instinct is more prominent in some breeds of dogs than others. Construct an outdoor kennel sturdy enough to keep your dog in and other animals out. Give your dog some privacy -- a crate in the house or dog house in the kennel.

Never allow your dog to run loose in the city. Not only is it illegal, but it is potentially dangerous to the public.

Tips for avoiding dog bites

These tips may help you and your family avoid dog bite situations:

Be a stick tree! If a dog approaches, don't run or scream. Try to back against a tree or car. If you have time, climb on a car or up a tree. Then call for help. If the dog moves away, you can then move away carefully.

Lie on the ground with knees tucked to your chest and fist over each ear if a dog knocks you down. Remain very still and quiet.

Staring threatens dogs.

Be aware that about 80 percent of dog bites occur in the victim's home or at a friend's home. These "friendly" dog bites account for the majority of treated dog bites.

The biting truth

Dog bites account for more emergency room visits than do skateboards, in-line skates, baby walkers and all-terrain vehicles combined.

Children at risk

Supervise small children when they are around a dog, especially when visiting a friend's home. Nationally, in emergency room reports for dog bites, about 73 percent of children treated were bitten in the face, neck or head. Only 30 percent of adult dog bite injuries were in these areas of the body. Severe dog bite injuries occur almost exclusively to children ten years old and younger.

Keeping Dangerous Dogs

Marshall has a dangerous dog ordinance that requires liability insurance and extra measures to keep a dangerous dog in the city.

A vicious (dangerous) dog is any dog over 25 pounds in weight that attacks a person where they may lawfully be at any time without other provocation; or any dog whose attack or bite breaks bone, requires sutures or causes other serious injury; or any dog declared to be vicious by the Animal Control Commission or its authorized representative.

Owners or keepers of vicious dogs are subject to the following standards in Marshall:

They shall be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or kennel, except when leashed and muzzled. The pen or kennel must have secure sides, top, and floor embedded in the ground no less than two feet. They may not be kept on a porch, patio or in any part of a house that would allow the dog to exit on its own. Property that contains a vicious dog shall display a sign using the words "Beware of Dog."

All keepers or harborers of vicious dogs must provide proof to the City Clerk of public liability insurance in a single incident of $300,000.00 for bodily injury or death of any person that may result from the ownership.

The insurance policy shall provide that no cancellation will be made unless ten days written notice is first given to the City Clerk. The owner must provide the Animal Control Officer two color photographs of the dog. If the owner moves, removes the dog from the city, or transfers ownership, the City Clerk must be notified within ten days.

If anyone has a question about the ordinance that governs dangerous dogs, they should call Animal Control Officer Teresa Edwards at 831-0420.

In closing, the Marshall Police Department wants to insure safe households for everyone. All we ask if you own a dog is that you be a responsible owner.

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