June 13, 2014

Editorial: 'Dog bites man' still making news

Man’s best friend? If you’re thinking dogs, you’re not keeping up with the latest numbers.

Last year, dogs broke the all-time record for biting humans, coast to coast, breaking the high set in 2003. New York had the most and costliest attacks in the nation.

If you’re looking for good news, though, dog bites are a problem we don’t hear much of in the North Country. We think that’s not necessarily because we have nicer dogs than anywhere else but because we may have fairly effective leash laws.

Bloomberg News reported recently that dog-bite claims for U.S. insurance companies climbed 5.5 percent in 2013 to 17,359. For those, insurers paid out $483.7 million, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

New Yorkers collected an average of $43,122 per claim; nationally, the average was $27,862.

Dog-bite claims accounted for a third of homeowner liability claim costs.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that almost 4.5 million Americans are bitten every year, about a fifth of them severely enough to require medical attention.

What gets into these pets?

Freedom, mostly. Dogs that should be leashed are not. Experts blame pet owners, not the pets themselves, for the attacks.

Owners should be encouraging benign games for their dogs, such as “go fetch,” rather than “tug of war” and others that promote ferocity.

Additionally, parents should school their children not to startle or disturb dogs that are sleeping or eating. Dog owners should not leave their pets alone with young children, either.

Bloomberg News quoted State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., the biggest provider of residential coverage in America, as saying the increase in dog-bite claims comes at a time when there are actually fewer dogs in the country.

The suggestion has been offered that maybe some of the reputedly more aggressive breeds are becoming more popular.

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