Infants and toddlers up to 2 years of age make up a large proportion of children in the United States who are treated at trauma centers for dog bites each year. According to a recent study by researchers at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, it is extremely important for parents to remember that while dogs may be important members of the family, they could also be a source of injury for young children. The study’s findings, published in the journal Injury Prevention, are relevant not just to families with dogs, but all families with children because they are exposed to dogs through other family members, friends and neighbors.
What the Study Found
About 37 percent of U.S. households own a dog, which adds up to 70 million dogs nationwide. Dogs bite about five million people in the U.S. each year, half of whom are children. Researchers analyzed 7,900 dog bite cases logged between 2007 and 2014 in the National Trauma Data Bank for patients 17 and younger. They found that 34 percent of the children were 6 to 12 years old, 30 percent were 2 or younger. The majority of cases, nearly 84 percent, occurred at home. A little over half of the dog bite cases involved facial injuries.
Nearly 80 percent were considered minor injuries and boys tended to have more severe injuries. Researchers say younger children may be more vulnerable than older kids because they may not know how to act around dogs and may not recognize cues that a dog is upset and ready to bite, which is why adult supervision is critical. While it may be natural for people to trust their dogs around children, there is no substitute for adult, human supervision, researchers say. The study’s authors recommend dog training for parents, which addresses dog behavior and supervision.
Safety Steps That Can Help
Here are a few safety tips if you have young children and dogs in your home:
- Always supervise your child when around dogs, even if this is your trusted family dog. Never leave a baby or young child alone with the dog. Remember, supervising children around dogs not only protects the children, but also the dog from harm by children who don’t always know when they are hurting animals.
- If you are expecting a baby, start early to get your dog used to the changes a baby will bring in your lives.
- Don’t allow your children to remove anything from your dog’s mouth.
- Teach your children early about dog safety.
If your child has been injured by a dog, please contact an experienced dog bite lawyer for more information about your legal rights and options.