July 1, 2014
Dog Bites Take Big Toll
By Jonathan Damashek
New Yorkers love their pets, but a dog that bites is a public menace.
The cost of insurance claims for dog-bite injuries went up 45 percent over the last 10 years, reaching $483 million in 2013, according to a recent analysis of claims by the Insurance Information Institute and State Farm. The report says claims have gone up because of higher medical costs and bigger settlements, judgments and jury awards for people seriously injured by dogs.
The New York State Department of Health reports that 6,600 children under 20 receive hospital treatment each year for dog bites, and 200 are hospitalized because the bites are so severe.
Most dog bites take place at home or in familiar surroundings and that most dogs that bite belong to the victim’s family, friends or neighbors. Children are also likely to be bitten at parks or in other public areas.
According to the recent report about dog bite liability, New York had the highest average cost per dog bite claim at more than $43,000. New York ranked second in number of dog-bite claims, with 965 claims costing $41.6 million.
Any dog, no matter the size or the breed, can bite and injure a child. A dog may be scared or protective of owners, especially if children get excited and approach them too quickly or loudly.
During summer months, many children spend more time outside and are more likely to encounter dogs, the need for caution increases. Homeowner and renter insurance policies usually cover liability related to dog bites up to the limit of the policy.
Stay Safe Around Dogs
Follow these suggestions by the New York State Department of Health to avoid dog bites:
- Get the owner’s permission before petting a dog, then approach it quietly and slowly, even letting it sniff your hand.
- Avoid startling the dog.
- Don’t tease or make dogs angry or frustrated.
- If you feed a dog, keep your fingers together, so it won’t think they’re part of the treat.
- Avoid petting a dog as it plays with a toy.
- Don’t pet dogs inside cars or behind fences because they may be protective.
- Don’t sneak up on a sleeping or eating dog because it could be startled.
When dealing with unfamiliar or angry dogs:
- Seek an owner’s permission first and then make sure your child approaches quietly and slowly, stroking the dog’s sides and back.
- Check the dog’s body language for anger, including ears and back fur standing up, tail sticking straight up and bared teeth or growling.
- If approached by a stray dog, your child should stop walking and stand still with hands down at the side. If the child is on the ground, he or she should lie still with knees tucked and hands placed over the ears.
- Don’t scream or run from a dog. Once the dog shows disinterest, tell your child to back away until the animal is gone.