New research shows dog bites down in 2018, but risk increases among children under 1 year
In advance of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s National Dog Bite Prevention Week, April 7-13, National Dog Bite Prevention Coalition partners State Farm Insurance, Insurance Information Institute, American Humane and celebrity dog trainer Victoria Stilwell announced the 2018 numbers for dog bite injury claims and provided "dogs-on" demonstrations on how to make those numbers decline even further.
Over the past year, the number of dog bite claims has decreased by 9% (decrease of 338 claims) and the amount paid has decreased by 7% (decrease of $9,116,837), according to the Insurance Information Institute (III) and State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners insurance in the United States. However, the news isn't all good. The number of emergency room visits by children age 0-1 doubled from 1,794 visits in 2001 to 3,125 in 2018.
Top 10 States for State Farm Dog Bite Claims in 2018
- California (409 claims, $18.6 million claims paid)
- Illinois (288, $10.3 million)
- Ohio (177, $4.8 million)
- Texas (168, $5.8 million)
- Pennsylvania (161, $5.6 million)
- Michigan (155, $5.4 million)
- Georgia (117, $3.8 million)
- Indiana (109, $4.0 million)
- New York (107, $7.9 million)
- Minnesota (107, $3.0 million)
"Even the gentlest dog can bite if they are in pain, feel threatened, or their signals of stress are misunderstood," said Dr. John de Jong, president of the AVMA. "These miscommunications result in most people being bitten by their own dog or a dog they know. For example, the average child may interpret a dog's yawn as 'sleepy' and licking as 'kissing', while these are often signs of stress in a dog. Not only is it important to understand how dogs behave, it is important to understand how a dog may interpret our behavior."
The host of this year's National Dog Bite Prevention Week press conference, Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society, is committed to helping pets and educating people through their programs and services. It was the perfect setting for veterinary experts and Victoria Stilwell to demonstrate the importance of active supervision—of both children and dogs—as well as how to interpret what dogs are communicating through their body language.
"Dogs don’t just bite 'out of the blue'. Most bites are a perfect storm of situation and circumstance, but because dogs' physical and vocal language is frequently misinterpreted or signals are missed, people often put themselves or others at risk and dogs are blamed as a result," says Stilwell. "Education is the only way to reduce dog bite incidents in this country, which is why I am proud to be a part of this coalition whose mission is to raise awareness about this issue."
A recent study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association cited approximately two-thirds of pet owners are missing a small window between two and 14 weeks where socialization is crucial in the behavioral development of dogs. Proper socialization can be the difference between a solid human-animal bond and dogs being returned to shelters or destroyed.
American Humane says that dog bites are a double tragedy affecting both people and animals. "A dog bite can have a devastating effect not only on the victim, but also on the dog, who may be euthanized," says Robin Ganzert, PhD, president and CEO of American Humane.
The Coalition understands that educating dog owners about responsible ownership will reduce dog-related injuries. Because of the high risk involving dogs, babies, and children, American Humane offers a free online booklet called Pet Meets Baby that provides families with valuable information on introducing a new child to a home with a dog.
The AVMA has an education-based toolkit including Jimmy's Dog House video series that teaches preschoolers how a dog might interpret their movements. The bilingual Dog Bite Prevention activity/coloring book teaches children how to act around dogs. Adults are urged to download this information: What You Should Know About Dog Bite Prevention (available in Spanish: Prevención de Mordeduras de Perros); Teaching children about dog bite prevention web page; and the Socialization of Dogs and Cats web page.
State Farm believes that educating dog owners about being responsible will reduce dog-related injuries. State Farm is also one of the few insurance companies in the country that does not have a breed restriction list and does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned. Under the right circumstances any dog might bite.
Dog bites by the numbers: Dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for nearly one third of all homeowners' liability claim dollars paid out in 2018, costing $675 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) and State Farm, the largest writer of homeowners’ insurance in the United States. An analysis of homeowners’ insurance data by the III found that the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased to 17,297 in 2018, compared to 18,522 in 2017– a 6.6% decrease. The average cost per claim increased by 5.3%. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims was $39,017. in 2018, compared with $37,051 in 2017.
In 2018, State Farm paid $123 million for 3,280 dog bite and injury claims.
Serving more than 100,000 member veterinarians, the AVMA is the nation's leading representative of the veterinary profession, dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of animals, humans and the environment. Founded in 1863 and with members in every U.S. state and territory and more than 60 countries, the AVMA is one of the largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. Informed by our members' unique scientific training and clinical knowledge, the AVMA supports the crucial work of veterinarians and advocates for policies that advance the practice of veterinary medicine and improve animal and human health.