The CDC, the AVMA, and many other health and safety groups insist that education is a key component in dog bite prevention strategies. Yet this approach, perplexingly, continues to be scoffed at by some lawmakers.
There have been very few studies performed to evaluate the long-term effectiveness of dog bite education in reducing bites in a community, but this is likely because such education is rarely implemented.
Short-term studies have indicated that children’s behavior around dogs is influenced by such education. (See, for example, Chapman S, Cornwall J, Righetti J, Sung L. 2000. Preventing dog bites in children: randomised controlled trial of an educational intervention. BMJ. 2000 June 3; 320(7248): 1512–1513) In Germany, after mail deliverers were given a course in dog behavior, dog attacks on carriers decreased by a third; no other approach was as effective. (McAllister, J. Germany’s postmen bite back armed with canine psychology. Telegraph UK., August 3, 2003)
Considering the pervasiveness of dogs in society, it makes sense that all people, young and old, should learn the basics of dog safety, even if they do not own a dog.
In the U.S., children make up the majority of dog bite victims. This points to a clear need for education of both children and parents about how to behave around dogs and how to avoid being bitten by dogs.
Children should learn dog safety in school, much as they learn fire safety and stranger safety. Expecting parents should get information from their doctor about raising kids with dogs, even if the adults do not have a dog at that time (even if the parents don’t intend to ever get a dog, it’s possible that a family member or friend will have a dog).
In the case that neither school nor the medical community reaches a person, dog safety can also be taught throughout the community. Classes may be held in pet stores, booths may be set up at community events, the local government may issue tips and information in their regular publications (water bill, newsletter, etc.), and so forth.
Local governments and animal control departments may fund part of this education effort, but local humane societies, rescue groups, animal and child welfare organizations, and health and safety-oriented groups may also be interested in assisting. The state health department might be another excellent source for funding or assistance.
There are also ample resources on the Internet. Below is a sampling.
Dog Bite Prevention from the CDC
What You Should Know About Dog Bite Prevention from the AVMA
Dog Bite Prevention Campaign Kit from the AVMA and State Farm
Dog Bite Facts from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Petra Mertens
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