It's estimated that 4. 7 million people are bitten by dogs every year. More than 30,000 reconstructive procedures after dog bites were performed last year, up eight percent since 2008. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) sponsors National Dog Bite Prevention Week® to educate both those who own dogs and those who do not to learn a common language that will reduce the number of dog bites.

"Any dog can bite," said AVMA Director of Animal Welfare Dr. Gail C. Golab. "Even the gentlest dog, if it is physically or mentally unhealthy, is in pain, feels threatened, or is protecting its food or a favorite toy, can bite. Not only is it important to understand how dogs behave, it is important to understand how our behavior may be interpreted by a dog. To prevent dog bites, we need to find a common language. Finding that common language is the focus of effective dog bite prevention educational efforts," Dr. Golab explained.

Fortunately, most dog bites are preventable through appropriate pet selection, proper training, responsible approaches to animal control, and education of dog owners and potential victims.

The AVMA along with the U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS) and the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) are taking time during National Dog Bite Prevention Week®, May 16-22, 2010 to educate the public about this critical public health issue.

Last year U.S. Postal Service letter carriers were among the 2,863 postal employees attacked by dogs last year, yet that pales in comparison to the estimated 400,000 children who receive medical attention for dog bites each year.

"Half of all children will be bitten by a dog by the time they're high school seniors," Said Dr. AlisonTothy, chair of the committee on injury and poison prevention of the AAP's Illinois chapter.

"Children are frequently bitten on the face, which can result in sever lacerations, infection or scarring," explained plastic surgeon Loren Schechter, member of the ASPS, ASRM, and ASMS.

Someone who knows how traumatic dog bites can be is 18-year-old Kelly Voigt. When Kelly was seven years old, she was bitten severely by a neighbor's dog and needed 100 stitches to her face as part of her recovery.

"Dog bite prevention education cannot begin early enough," said Voigt. The experience was the catalyst behind the creation of Prevent The Bite, a non-profit organization that promotes dog bite prevention to young children. To date, Voigt has spoken before more than 10,000 elementary school students.

"Warm and wonderful relationships are shared between more than 72 million pet dogs and their owners in the United States," said Dr. Larry R. Corry, AVMA president. "To protect those relationships, everyone must take responsibility for preventing dog bite injuries," he added.

Dog Bite Prevention Resources

Tips, brochures, coloring books, interactive video.

Video with b-roll


American Veterinary Medical Association