Caution, knowledge can help prevent bites, other injuries

Posted: Friday, March 30, 2001

Summer is finally approaching and with it comes a lot of anticipated fun and excitement from outdoor activities. Unfortunately some of us will be approached and injured by an unfamiliar or unfriendly animal.

Statistics show that 50 percent of all children in the United States will have been bitten by a dog before they reach their 12th birthday. Many of these bites will require medical treatment. More than half of the bites will happen on or near the property where the animal lives.

There also will be others that will receive injuries caused inadvertently by an animal running loose (such as falling off a bike while trying to escape from an aggressive dog).

Children should be taught the appropriate way to behave around animals, and they should be taught never to approach an animal they do not know. Even if they know an animal, they should always ask an adult for permission to go into the yard where a dog is or to pet one.

Dogs should never be generalized by a specific breed in predicting their disposition. All breeds and sizes are capable of attacking. A recent article in the National Animal Control Association Newsletter stated that a small pomeranian had killed a 6-week-old baby while its caretaker was warming a bottle of milk.

There are many different reasons that will cause an animal to challenge a person. Recognizing an animal's warning signs and avoiding certain situations may help prevent an unwanted encounter. Being prepared and knowing how to react when confronted by a potentially dangerous animal may alleviate a problem altogether.

Safety tips

Never surprise an animal.

Make a soft noise, like whistling or talking softly, when approaching a yard or vehicle where you suspect an animal may be. Let the animals know of your presence. Do not try to pet a sleeping dog.

Keep calm; don't run.

Never turn your back or run. Stand very still with your arms and hands to your side. Avoid any fast movements.

Do not stare into a dog's eyes.

Always have the dog in your view. Look over its head or to one side or the other.

Be firm.

Give commands to a dog that is approaching in an aggressive way. Say: "NO!", "Stay," "Go Home," "Bad Dog."

Shield yourself.

If you are on a bike, put the bike between yourself and the dog. Use a purse or stick as a shield between yourself and the animal.

Never approach an animal that is eating or with offspring.

Stay away from packs of dogs.

Do not approach an injured animal.

Call a local official -- for example, animal control, the police department, Alaska State Troopers, or Fish and Wildlife Protection.

If you are bitten by an unfamiliar animal, try to remember the type, size, color and hair length of the animal; the color of its collar and if it had tags. In addition:

Wash the wound thoroughly with soap and water.

Seek medical treatment immediately.

Report the incident to the proper authorities -- within the city limits of Kenai and Soldotna that would be the animal control office.

Ultimately the responsibility lies with the pet owner. To ensure the safety of others and the animals' welfare, pets should never be allowed to run loose unattended.

Marianne Clark is the animal control officer-shelter manager for the city of Soldotna. Both the Soldotna and Kenai animal shelters can be contacted for more animal safety tips.

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