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Preventing those dog bites



This week has been designated National Dog Bite Prevention Week. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 4.5 million dog bites occur each year, and of these, 20 percent require medical attention because they are severe (https://www.avma.org). Most victims of dog bites are children, and children are usually the ones requiring medical care. (The next group most bitten is senior citizens.)

When children are bitten, most occurrences happen during everyday activities with familiar dogs. One news incident relayed to me involved a nonaggressive pointer-hound mix named Milo who was sleeping on a couch in his home. A six-year-old neighbor boy came into the house, was left alone with Milo, petted the napping dog and was bitten in the face when the startled dog woke up. The adage “Let sleeping dogs lie” can be interpreted literally here.

We can certainly feel sadness and be upset for a child who has suffered a dog bite, particularly a facial one. Besides the pain and possible disfigurement, the child will most likely forever fear all dogs of all breeds. However, prevention through education might have deterred this traumatic event. Poor Milo’s punishment? Euthanization.

Melissa Berryman, author of “People Training for Good Dogs: What Breeders Don’t Tell You and Trainers Don’t Teach” (http://www.ptfgd.com), says that “dog owners are set up for failure because our default is to blame the dog. Owners get fined or sued for repeated human mistakes. Dogs often pay with their lives for mistakes made by people. … Prevention has to be the priority.”

Suddenly waking sleeping dogs, however, is not the only cause of dog bites. Dogs are finely tuned in to human moods and actions. Here are some tips to help avoid dog bites:

“Don’t run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things” (AVMA).

“Never disturb a dog that is caring for puppies … or eating” (AVMA).

“If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still. In most cases, the dog will go away when it determines you are not a threat” (AVMA).

Also, according to Berryman, “Dogs don’t sniff each other’s paws when greeting and like us prefer to be asked before being touched by a stranger. Instead, ask the owner and then also ASK the dog by tapping your hand on your thigh simulating a wagging tail and act friendly. The dog will relax and nuzzle you, need to sniff more to get to know you or will stay away.”

“If you are threatened by a dog, remain calm. Don’t scream or yell. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly. Avoid eye contact. Try to stay still until the dog leaves, or back away slowly until the dog is out of sight. Don’t turn and run” (AVMA).

“If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck. Protect your face” (AVMA).

In other notes, we first send a huge wave of gratitude to Ken Tedford and his staff at Tedford Tire & Auto Service for the pro bono repair of our Expedition’s wiring system. This vehicle is used to transport our shelter guests to veterinary care, doggie day care and, often, Reno and other “faraway” locations.

Next, please stop by Flower Tree Nursery to buy raffle tickets ($1 each or six for $5) for “Prairie fire,” a vibrant-pink crabapple tree valued at $79.99! All proceeds from this raffle benefit CAPS. Tickets can also be purchased at the shelter. The drawing will be held on June 1 at Flower Tree (you don’t have to be present to win), so time is running out.

Lastly, be sure to check this column to see when the next photo shoot for our 2014 Happy Endings calendar will be held. The location will be at Flower Tree, probably within the next month or so. CAPS cannot thank Susan Henderson and her staff enough for their continued support of CAPS; their contributions truly make a difference in our well-being.

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.