By Jennifer Evans

The week of May 19 – 25 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week! According to Boston Animal Control, there are more than 9,400 dogs licensed in the city of Boston. As we move into the warmer months, more people are out around the city and in contact with unfamiliar dogs. We want to make sure that you know how to keep yourself and your family safe around all dogs this summer.

BPHC monitors trends in the number of people who go to Boston hospitals seeking care for animal bites. Every year, we see this number increase in the summertime as more people are outside and in contact with unfamiliar animals.

animal bite visits to boston EDs

Not all dog bites are the same! Dog bites range from nips to bites to actual attacks. Both small dogs and large dogs bite, but most hospitalizations result from bites from larger dogs. National data estimates that 1 in 5 people bitten by dogs require medical attention. Most dog bite victims are bitten by their own dog or a dog that they know. Even the friendliest, most good-natured dog can bite if she is scared or startled. A dog bite does not mean a bad dog!

dogsUnfortunately, children are the most common victims of dog bites and are far more likely to be severely injured. Most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs.

Here are some tips to help avoid dog bites that are expecially good for children to know:

  • Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
  • Do not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff you first. If a dog approaches to sniff you, stay still.
  • Do not play with a dog unless an adult is there.
  • Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
  • Do not run past a dog. Dogs naturally love to chase and catch things, and running might cause a dog to become excited or aggressive.
  • Do not reach over a fence or into a car to pet a dog. Dogs can be protective of their territory and they may feel threatened.
  • Do not scream or yell around dogs. If you say anything, speak calmly and firmly.
  • Avoid direct eye contact.
  • “Stand like a tree” – Remain motionless with your hands folded in front of you when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
  • “Lie like a log” – If you fall or are knocked to the ground, curl into a ball with your hands over your head and neck and lie still. Protect your face.
  • If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.

Healthcare providers and institutions in Boston are required to report animal bites, including dog bites, to BPHC, and we work with healthcare providers and Boston Animal Control to make sure that all necessary treatment and follow-up is done.

Jennifer is a public health veterinarian with the Communicable Disease Control Division at BPHC.