Each year, millions in U.S. are bit and injured by dogs

Loyal, friendly and loving are all words pet owners frequently use to describe their beloved canine companions. With an estimated 70 million dogs living in the U.S., more than 36 percent of U.S. households have at least one dog as a pet. While there's no doubt that dogs can be great and loyal companions, they can also be unpredictable and dangerous.

Every dog, regardless of how seemingly gentle and docile, has the capacity to bite or attack. A dog may lash out and bite someone if it is provoked, startled or feeling ill. Additionally, a dog is more likely to bite if it is bothered while eating or when around other dogs.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, annually, some 4.5 million people in the U.S. suffer dog bites. Of those dog bite victims, a significant percentage are children under the age of 14. During 2013 alone, some 27,000 people in the U.S. were forced to undergo reconstructive surgery after suffering dog bites. Tragically, during this same year, 31 individuals died after being attacked and bitten.

While some dogs may bite or attack for seemingly no reason, there are often signs that a dog is feeling provoked or threatened. To avoid potential serious injury, it's important for both children and adults alike to understand ways to avoid being bitten by a dog.

• Never approach a strange dog or any dog without a dog owner's permission and supervision
• Never try to take a dog's food away or sneak up on a sleeping dog
• Teach children not to tease a dog or to pull on its ears or tail
• Never leave a small child unattended with a dog

In cases where a dog bite occurs, it's important to take action to identify the dog and dog owner. Depending on the circumstances that preceded the bite or attack, an individual may be able to take legal action to recover damages related to medical expenses, disfigurement and pain and suffering.

Source: AVMA.org, "Infographic: Dog Bites by the Numbers," April 16, 2015

AVMA.org, "Teaching Children How to Prevent Dog Bites," April 16, 2015

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