This week is national dog bite prevention week.
The week will be blessed with a lot of great information about preventing dog bites and attacks. It will also be sparked by a lot of hyperbole and headlines designed to scare people and drive ratings. Be smart and recognized the difference.
With that, there are four key stories that launched last week (or over the weekend) that I think are good starting points for National Dog Bite Prevention Week.
#1 - The National Canine Research Council Notes that National Dog Bite Prevention Week is succeeding
The Number of dog bites to postal workers topped out at about 7,000 dog bites to postal workers in 1983. Now, 30 years later, the number is 2,675. This is a substantial improvement -- and particularly notable as the population of people and the increasing perctage of people who own dogs as pets have driven the number of owned dogs up dramatically during this time. 2,675 is still a lot -- but it is great to see the downward trend.
State Farm is one of the largest home owner and liability insurance companies in the nation -- and also the largest that does not discriminate on insurance coverage based on dog breeds (except in Ohio -- where they do discriminate because of Ohio State law that declares all pit bulls to be "dangerous"). In 2010, State Farm paid out more than $90 million as a result of nearly 3500 dog bite claims. In their official press release, State Farm lists their top 10 states for insurance claims. It is interesting to note that Ohio is #3 on the list in spite of the state-wide Breed-Specific legislation and in spite of State Farm's inability to insure 'pit bulls' there. This is the state that has the highest upward swing when compared to overall population -- again showing that breed specific laws do NOT improve overall public safety -- and arguably make people less safe, not more safe.
I emailed the spokesperson for State Farm to see if they had numbers of bites by dog breeds and she noted that they don't track that information because breed is not a causal factor in bites and because breed identification wasn't reliable in these cases -- something else that has proven to be true over and over again. And you'd bet that a company that has $90 million at stake in this would be making a pretty sound decision.
This report has gotten a lot of media play this week. Mostly, if you look at the list, many of the cities largely fall where they are should based on the size of the populations. Large cities will have more dogs and likely more bite incidents. Here are a couple of notable areas that have significantly higher bite rankings than their populations would indicate they should have:
Columbus, OH - Tied at #2 in bites, #15 in population
Cleveland, OH - #8 in bites, #45 in population
Cincinnati, OH - #19 in bites, #62 in population
Denver, CO -- #12 in bites, #26 in population
Toledo, OH -- #27 in bites, #66 in population
Arguably no cities have done more harm to 'pit bulls' in the name of public safety than this group listed above - -with all of them being miserable failures in terms of public safety. All of the Ohio cities are under the state-wide breed specific legislation, and Denver and Cincinnati have outright bans on the dogs. Breed-specific laws do not improve public safety.
Meanwhile, this report has also spurred the fear-mongering that comes with the media. KSHB in Kansas City (you'll see more from them from me this week) reported that "Kansas City is among top cities for dog attacks on mail carriers". Uh huh. They list Kansas City as ranked #21 (which, the report has the cities numbered oddly and has them listed at 21), but KC actually is tied fore 34th on the list of bites (if you count the number of actual cities) and 37th in total population -- so we're essentially right where we should be for dog bites on postal carriers based on overall population. But fear mongering is more fun.
They propose "Respect Dogs Week" -- which make a lot of sense. They have some great commentary on respecting dogs' limits and recognizing warning signs. Very much worth the read.
Also, for your education, doggone safe has put together a quiz to help you understand dog body language to help you stay safe. Take the quiz. I got 9 out of 10 -- and I think the answer to the one I missed was more geared toward kids than someone who has a lot of experience handling dogs that have fear issues -- so I gave myself a pass on it.
Have a good week.