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Dog Bite Information and Prevention

The failure to prevent one’s dog from attacking or biting people engaged in lawful activity presents a significant threat of harm to public health and safety, and is prohibited by law. Owners of animals that attack or bite people are often subject to administrative action and may also incur criminal responsibility and/or civil liability.

  • 4.7 Million persons are bitten by dogs annually in the U.S. and 800,000 of those persons require medical treatment. Dog bite injuries increased 37% in the U.S. between 1986 and 1994.
  • The cost of an average dog bite injury treated in a hospital emergency room is $274; severe injuries can result in thousands of dollars in treatment and surgery costs. The national annual total for emergency room treatment of new dog bite injuries is $102.2 million.
  • Dog bites occur on the owner’s property 70% of the time. The Insurance Institute estimates that up to one-third of homeowners liability claims are for dog attacks and the insurance industry paid an estimated $1 billion in dog bite claims during 1994.
  • Locally, the County of San Diego Department of Animal Control investigates over 6,000 reported dog bites or non-bite attack incidents annually.

How to prevent dog bites and be a responsible dog owner:

  • Keep your dog in an adequately fenced enclosure which is locked to prevent unauthorized access. Do not keep your dog on a chain.
  • Control your dog with a hand-held leash when away from home.
  • Spay or neuter your dog. Altering will reduce your dog’s desire to roam, making confinement an easier task. Unaltered dogs are up to 3 times more likely to bite than dogs that have been spayed or neutered. (Low-cost spay/neuter referrals are available from the Spay Neuter Action Project at 619-525-3047, or from Pet Assistance at 619-544-1222 or 760-745-7986.)
  • Properly train and socialize your dog.
  • Don’t play aggressive games (wrestling, tug-of-war, allowing to play-bite a person) with your dog.
  • If you don’t know how your dog will react to a new situation, be cautious. Never leave your dog unattended with a small child.
  • Ensure that your dog is vaccinated against rabies and properly licensed.

Safety tips on how to avoid being bitten include:

  • Never approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Never run from a dog and scream.
  • Remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball and lie still.
  • Never permit a child to play with a dog without adult supervision.
  • Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first.
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