LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - In Louisville, a gruesome dog attack killed a toddler boy in West Louisville earlier in May. According to Norton Children's Hospital, across the nation, there are some 800,000 dog bites reported each year. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to bites, even from the most innocent of dogs.
Pets, especially dogs are like family to many. But even those pets we hold near and dear can become agitated or aggressive when circumstances change or they are afraid. Last year, 394 children were treated for dog bites at Norton Children’s Hospital, Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital and Norton Children’s Medical Center – Brownsboro emergency rooms.
These are tips to prevent dog bites:
- -Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog. Even if you feel your dog is the most mild-tempered pet.
- -Pets need space. They are possessive of their items, especially food and toys. Having a secure, kid-free zone for your pet can lower the chance of a bite happening.
- -Keep dogs on a leash when outdoors. You never know how a dog will react around strangers or other dogs, even a dog you know very well.
- Plus, other people may not want to be approached by your dog. This protects both your pet and people.
- -Teach your child to always ask a pet's owner before petting or approaching an unknown pet.
- -Another good habit to teach is to never stick hands through a fence into a dog's territory.
- If you have a dog, you have to be a responsible pet owner.
- -Socializing your puppy at an early age is one the best things you can do.
- -Always keep your pet current on the required vaccines.
- -Some dogs are nippers — it’s their way of playing. If your dog nips, consider putting a muzzle on your when you go for walks or in public places.
If you are thinking of getting a pet, there are hings to consider.
- -Never get a pet on impulse.
- -Consult with your veterinarian beforehand. Discuss your current or future living situation, including children and elderly in the home, work and travel schedules, and activity level. These are all very important factors when choosing a pet.
- -Pick a pet that matches your family. The veterinarian can help you determine what breeds work best with your family.
Even if you follow all of the recommended steps, dog bite prevention isn't always 100 percent.
"If you are out and a dog approaches you, stand still," Erika Janes, R.N., child safety advocate for Norton Children's Prevention & Wellness said. "Never lunge at the dog or attempt to pet him. Also avoid direct eye contact if possible."
If the dog continues to come toward you or jump, experts recommend you get on the ground and use your arms to protect your face.If you are bitten, wash the wound immediately and seek medical attention. In extreme situations, call 911 for emergency medical services.
"All dog bites must be reported," Janes said. "There is a process to report dog bites in each county, so seek out the information where you live. Most times the medical provider you see will start the process for you and report it to the county's proper authorities."
For more information on reporting dog bites and concerns in the Louisville Metro area, call the Environmental Division of Louisville Metro Health and Wellness (502) 574-6640.
If you see a stray or wounded animal wondering your neighborhood, never approach it. The best thing to do is contact Metro Animal Services at (502) 361-1318.