Health Department Encourages Dog Bite Prevention
(May 23, 2013) –National Dog Bite Prevention Week 2013 runs from May 19th - 25th. The Saint Louis County Department of Health is using the opportunity to remind residents about basic dog bite prevention tips to decrease the number of incidents in our community.
“Last year, there were 1,019 incidents of dog bites reported to the Saint Louis County Department of Health,” said Rebecca Smail, Program Manager of Vector Control and Veterinary Services. “We’d like to see that number decrease as much as possible.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, and one in five dog bites results in injuries that require medical attention.
There are many things a person can do to avoid dog bites, ranging from properly training and socializing a pet to educating children on how – or if – they should approach a dog. Information and education are the best solutions for this public health problem.
Before you bring a dog into your household, you should:
Consult with a professional (e.g., veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or responsible breeder) to learn what breeds of dogs are the best fit for your household.
Be aware that dogs with a history of aggression are not suitable for households with children.
Be sensitive to cues that a child is fearful or apprehensive about a dog. If a child seems frightened by dogs, you should wait before bringing a dog into your household.
Spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it.
Use caution when bringing a dog into a household with an infant or toddler.
If you decide to bring a dog into your home, you should:
Spay or neuter your dog because this often reduces aggressive tendencies.
Never leave infants or young children alone with a dog.
Never play aggressive games with your dog (e.g., wrestling).
Properly socialize and train any dog entering your household. Teach the dog submissive behaviors (e.g., rolling over to expose the abdomen and giving up food without growling).
Immediately seek professional advice (e.g., from veterinarians, animal behaviorists, or responsible breeders) if the dog develops aggressive or undesirable behaviors.
To help prevent children from being bitten by dogs, residents should teach the following basic safety tips to children and review them regularly:
Do not approach an unfamiliar dog.
Do not run from a dog or scream at a dog.
Remain motionless (e.g., "be still like a tree") when approached by an unfamiliar dog.
If knocked over by a dog, roll into a ball, clench your fists, and lie still (e.g., "be still like a log").
Do not play with a dog unless supervised by an adult.
Immediately report any stray dogs or dogs displaying unusual behavior to an adult.
Avoid direct eye contact with a dog.
Do not disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies.
Do not pet a dog without its owner’s permission or before allowing it to see and sniff you first.
If bitten, immediately report the bite to an adult.
Smail added that if you are bitten by a dog or witness someone else being bitten, and no immediate medical treatment is needed, you should call the health department to report the incident. During regular business hours (9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Saturday), call 314-615-0650. After regular business hours, you should call the police non-emergency line at 314-889-2341.
For more information about preventing dog bites, visit
For more information about pets and pet vaccination requirements, visit