May 28, 2008
As warm weather and vacations take people outdoors more often, Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) officials remind people that they can reduce the chances that they, their children or others will be bitten by a dog.
“An estimated 400,000 dog bites occur in Texas each year,” said veterinarian Tom Sidwa, head of the DSHS zoonosis control. “About 40 percent of severe bite victims are children under age 11, and 20 percent of the people who die from dog bites are over 70.”
DSHS offers these suggestions:
- Spay or neuter a dog to reduce aggression but not protectiveness.
- Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it. Use caution when bringing a dog into the home of an infant or toddler.
- A dog with a history of aggression is not appropriate in a household with children.
- Train and socialize a puppy early in its life. Do not tolerate or encourage aggressive behavior.
- Never leave infants and young children unsupervised around any dog, even the family pet.
- If you see a pack of dogs running loose or any animal behaving strangely, go inside and call local animal control.
DSHS also advises teaching children these basic safety precautions:
- Don't go near strange dogs.
- Don't surprise or tease a dog that is sleeping, eating, playing with a toy or caring for puppies.
- When you first come near a dog, let the animal see and sniff you. Walk up to the dog from the side, not from the back or directly from the front.
- If a dog acts as if it might bite, stand still. Don't scream or run.
- If a dog attacks, protect yourself with anything you have – backpack, purse, jacket or bicycle. If you are knocked down, try to lie face down or curl up in a ball with your hands over your ears.
Be still and quiet until the dog goes away.
“ If a bite occurs, identify the animal,” Sidwa said. Immediately wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water and apply an antiseptic. Contact a physician for care and advice and report the bite to the local animal control agency.
“Responsible pet ownership also is an important part of dog bite prevention,” Sidwa said.
Lillian's Law, House Bill 1355 that took effect Sept. 1, 2007, increased penalties for dog owners who fail to reasonably secure their dogs, resulting in an unprovoked attack on a person and causing serious injury or death. The owner of a dog who injures someone can be charged with a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison. The charge becomes a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison when the injury results in death. The law was named for Lillian Stiles, an East Texas woman killed in her front yard by a pack of dogs.
“People also need to be sure that their animals are up to date on required shots,” Sidwa said. “State law requires pet owners to vaccinate their dogs and cats against rabies by the time they are 4 months old.”
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(News Media: For more information contact Emily Palmer, DSHS Assistant Press Officer, at 512-458-7400.)