Recent dog attacks on young children have raised public awareness of the dangers of animal bites. A 6-year-old Delhi boy is recovering from bites to his head, neck and arms after a Nov. 10 dog attack. This was just days after a 3-year-old Winton boy sustained severe injuries when the family dog attacked him on Nov. 7. Both cases involved attacks by pit bulls.
Around 800,000 dog bites a year are severe enough to require medical treatment in the United States, but a brochure put out by Turlock Animal Services estimates that another 1 to 2 million bites go unreported each year in the US. In Turlock, approximately 20 cat or dog bites are reported each month. Officer Glena Jackson, head of Turlock Animal Services, said that by law an animal control officer has to respond to reports of an animal bite.
“As a matter of public safety we have to quarantine the animal for 10 days. Our main concern is the possibility of rabies,” Jackson said.
Although both recently publicized attacks involved pit bulls, Jackson said the worst two attacks in Turlock in 2011 involved a Dalmatian and a German shepherd dog. In the City of Turlock, there is no evidence that pit bulls bite more often than any other breed.
“City statistics show that dog bites are just about even across the breeds. Bottom line, if a dog has teeth it can bite,” Jackson said.
Pit bulls are one of the most common breeds at the Turlock Animal Shelter, and Jackson said their bad reputation can make them hard to place. She said that pit bulls, like all dogs, need to be trained and socialized to avoid aggressive behavior.
“When people own a pit bull they need to understand that other people will assume things about their dog because of its breed. I tell them to use care and caution to safeguard the image of the breed,” Jackson said.
Unlike the recent dog bites on local children, most of Turlock’s animal bite cases involve adults or minors over age 15. Jackson said that dog attacks on young children are rare. Of all of the animal bites reported in 2011, Jackson estimated that 50 percent of them were preventable. She said in preventable cases people were doing something to provoke a dog into attacking, or trying to handle sick or injured animals.
Turlock Animal Services published a pamphlet on how to prevent dog bites. Advice includes not staring into a dog’s eyes, not teasing dogs, and not touching unfamiliar dogs. This advice applies especially to children.
“Children, or anyone really, should never approach a dog without asking permission,” Jackson said.
Asking permission from the owner before petting a dog is a must, even in public places or at a dog park. Asking the dog’s permission is equally important. Children can ask a dog “permission” to pet by offering their hand for the dog to sniff. If the dog shows any sign of aggression, the child should slowly walk away sideways. Signs of aggression include growling, snarling with teeth shown, ears laid flat, and hair standing up. Children should never scream or run from a dog.
If a child or adult is bitten by a dog they are legally obligated to report it, even if they are not pressing charges. Jackson said many people will not report an animal bite because they own the dog or do not want the owner to get in trouble. They are also concerned that the dog will be euthanized for biting if they make a report.
“It doesn’t always mean a death sentence. We do have to quarantine the dog, but sometimes the dog can be quarantined at home. The dog has to be observed for signs of rabies for 10 days,” Jackson said.
Dog bites can be reported to Turlock Animal Services at 668-5500 ext. 6301.
To contact Andrea Goodwin, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 634-9141 ext. 2003.