It's National Dog Bite Prevention WeekŪ, focusing on the prevention of dog bites that are avoidable in a majority of cases, according to Director of Tri-County Humane Society Belinda Althage, a non-profit animal shelter with a mission to find a home for every animal that is brought into the organization's care at their location in St. James.
“Dogs don’t normally want to bite, that is not their nature,” said Althage. “That is their protection mode and fear mode.”
There are more than 4.5 million dog bites every year in the U.S., over half of which are children, according to the Center for Disease Control, and 900,000 of those bites become infected with viral diseases such as rabies.
Several factors prompt bite cases in children according to Althage, and most come down to “children being children,” where the children don’t understand the boundaries when it comes to coming into contact with dogs.
“Children are exploring, and sometimes they get too rough when playing with dogs, so the dogs go after them,” said Althage. “Dogs and children are the same height, some of the larger dogs look at children in equal status.”
The dog can view the child as a threat, which is why people should never stare a dog down because that can escalate into a bite, noted Althage; additionally, there are sight dogs that are roused by movement.
“For example, a Rottweiler and German Shepherd are sight dogs spurred by movement, and then you get a lot of children that are going to run up to the dog, and the dog will go after them out of fear,” said Althage. “The leading dog that bites is a cocker spaniel, not your Pit Bull, not your German Shepard, not your Rottweiler.”
Besides dogs reacting to motion, another constituent that provokes a dog to bite is how a dog is raised, along with the hierarchy of the dog within the family.
“You raise a dog, and it’s your baby, and you treat it like a baby, and all of a sudden your sister comes with her ten kids, and they are out there screaming and hollering,” states Althage. “The dog doesn’t know what is going on, and it becomes so confusing that when in doubt the dog bites.”
With some breeds it is jealousy, and they see a baby as their competition, considering before the baby came along the dog ruled the house, and it was considered the baby, Althage adds.
At the Tri-County Humane Society, if a dog is brought in after biting someone, and the dog isn’t spayed or neutered, the dog will be quarantined at a veterinarians office seeing that Rabies is a serious concern related to people getting bit.
“As adults, we know better, and we know what we should do around strange dogs," said Althage. “Dogs can’t be the blame, and the owner has a duty to keep their dog in an environment away from children, if the dog is nervous around children, and at the least—keep the dog on a leash outside.”