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Beware of dog bites: Tips to keep you and your children safe

Nationl Dog Bite Prevention Week is April 9-15


Use these tips to help prevent dog bites.


There are tremendous responsibilities and potential liabilities that come with owning a dog. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports there are approximately 4.5 million dog bites per year, with bite-related injuries highest among children 5 to 9 years old.

Dog behavior is a serious concern for everyone. Insurance companies often pay civil judgments for dog bites that happen on their customers’ properties. Those payments affect insurance premiums that policyholders pay.

In fact, dog bites and other dog-related injuries accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out in 2016, costing in excess of $600 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

The average cost per claim paid out by insurers actually decreased by more than 10 percent in 2016, but the average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 70 percent from 2003 to 2016. This is due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, the I.I.I. reports.

 It is important to do everything you can to prevent dog bites.

The Centers for Disease Control and the U.S. Humane Society offer the following tips on how to prevent dog attacks. Share this information with your loved ones for protection in a variety of situations:

For owners:

  • Responsibility as a dog owner begins before the puppy or dog is brought home for the first time. Research dog breeds and select a dog suitable to your family and lifestyle. If you are buying a puppy, ask to meet the parents and observe the setting in which the young dog was raised.

  • Train or socialize your dog. Don’t play aggressive games with your dog.

  • Spay or neuter your dog.

  • Seek professional advice if your dog starts to become aggressive, such as growling or nipping.

  • Closely supervise children when around dogs. The size of a child may cause a dog to act in a dominant way toward a child.

  • Check the liability coverage for dog bites in your homeowners or renters policy. You should also ask your insurance agent if your company has rules regarding dog ownership. For example, American Family Insurance generally insures all breeds except for wolf-hybrids, but may ask the dog owner to meet certain conditions in some situations. Other insurance companies may have different rules.

For everyone:

  • If a strange or threatening dog approaches, stand still. Don’t run or scream. Try to back against a tree or car. If you have time, climb on a car or up a tree. Then call for help. If the dog moves away, you can then move away carefully.

  • If a dog knocks you down, lie on the ground with knees tucked to your chest and a fist over each ear. Remain very still and quiet.

  • Don’t stare. Staring threatens dogs.

  • Be aware that approximately 80 percent of dog bites occur in the victim’s home or at a friend’s home. These “friendly” dog bites account for the majority of treated dog bites

National Dog Bite Prevention Week® is an annual event designed to provide consumers with information on how to be responsible pet owners while increasing awareness of a serious public health issue.

About American Family Insurance
Madison, Wis. - based American Family Insurance, celebrating its 90th anniversary in 2017, is the nation's 13th-largest property/casualty insurance group and ranks No. 332 on the Fortune 500 list. The company sells American Family-brand products, including auto, homeowners, life, business and farm/ranch insurance, through its exclusive agents in 19 states. American Family affiliates (The General, Homesite and AssureStart) also provide options for consumers who want to manage their insurance matters directly over the Internet or by phone. Web; Facebook; Twitter; Google+