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Keep Children Safe, Prevent Dog Bites

July 13, 2015

The Florida Department of Health in Orange County in conjunction with Orange County Animal Services are responsible for the oversight of animal bites in Orange County. The main concern of both agencies is the prevention of bites from animals that can transmit the rabies virus to the human population; however, due to the recent number of children involved with bites from dogs, both agencies would like to emphasize the importance of protecting children from dog bites.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year. Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those 5 to 9 years old. Children are more likely than adults to receive medical attention for dog bites.

“Parents should be aware of the risks associated with dogs and take precautions to prevent dog bites and the risk of illness to their children,” said Dr. Kevin M. Sherin, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County. “Teaching them the basic safety tips on how to interact with dogs is an important step to avoid injuries and fatalities.”

In addition to causing pain, injury, or nerve damage, dog bites can become infected, placing the bite victim at risk for illness or even death. To reduce the number of injuries from dog bites, adults and children should be educated about bite prevention, and dog owners should practice responsible dog ownership. Any dog can bite, from the smallest to the largest; even the friendliest, cute, cuddly and easygoing dog might bite, if provoked. The following tips can help parents educate children about basic safety around dogs:

  • Young children should not play with a dog unsupervised.
  • Children should not disturb any dog that is sleeping, eating, chewing on a toy or bone, or caring for puppies.
  • Children should never approach a barking, growling or scared dog.
  • Children should not pet a dog without allowing it to see and sniff them first.
  • If a loose dog comes near a child, he should not run or scream. Instead, they should avoid eye contact with the dog and stand still until the dog moves away.
  • If a child falls down or is knocked to the ground by a dog they should curl up like a ball with their knees tucked to their stomach with their fingers interlocked behind their head to protect their neck and ears.
  • Children should never try to outrun a dog. If a dog attacks, the child should put anything at their disposal between them and the dog. That means a coat or jacket, book bag, stick or bicycle.

“Animal Services offers bite prevention workshops to all ages in an effort to educate children about the situation in which bites may occur,” said Dil Luther, Division Manager of Orange County Animal Services. “It is our goal with these outreach programs to reduce the number of future incidents.”

Seek medical attention after a dog attack or bite if the wound is serious, the wound becomes red, painful, warm, or swollen, or if you develop a fever, if it has been more than 5 years since your last tetanus shot and the bite is deep. Anyone who is bitten by a dog is at risk of getting rabies; it is important to contact Orange County Animal Services, the health department and/or police department to report the incident. For more information on preventing dog bites, visit http://www.cdc.gov/features/dog-bite-prevention/index.html .