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How Do You Prevent Dangerous Dog Bites?

There are about 400 dog bite victims a year in Minneapolis.

The evening of May 8, after an 11-year-old Kenny girl was , the girl’s father released the dog to Minneapolis Animal Care and Control with the understanding that it would be euthanized.

Within 24 hours, the pit bull was dead, its body taken to the University of Minnesota, where it tested negatively for rabies.

But regardless of who—parents, child, dog—were at fault in the incident, if anyone was, just how many dogs bite humans in Minneapolis?

In 2011, there were more than 400 victims of dog bites within the city of Minneapolis’s borders, 87 of which were classified as “serious,” meaning the dog was either put down or its owner was forced to sterilize their animal and purchase $300,000 in insurance against any further harm their pet might cause.

Dan Niziolek, the manager of Minneapolis animal control, told Patch that, nationally, more than half of all dog bite victims are children and that he aims to reintroduce curriculum to the Minneapolis Public Schools in bite prevention.

“Kids may not know how to approach a dog,” he said. “We had a bite that happened about three weeks ago in a different part of the city of Minneapolis where a child was allegedly trying to ride a dog and subsequently got bit.”

While many people believe that certain dog breeds are more likely to bite, Niziolek said all types of canines have been placed on the department’s Dangerous Dog List.

“We declare all types of animals, whether it’s a Lab or a Pit bull, a Chihuahua or a Shih Tzu,” he said. “It comes back to the fact that dogs are animals—we don’t know for sure what may trigger a dog to bite, but dogs may bite.”

Niziolek said that in the case of the 11-year-old Kenny girl, he didn’t know what could have prevented the pit bull’s aggression.

“I’m not seeing anything that jumps out at me like ‘Oh, if somebody had done this, this wouldn’t have happened,’” he said. “It’s just a very tragic, unfortunate situation.”

Niziolek provided the following list of techniques owners can use to reduce the chance of their animal biting a person or another animal:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. Sterilized dogs are much less prone to bite and roam than intact ones.
  • Control your dog. An unfortunate incident can usually be prevented by properly confining or leashing your dog.
  • Socialize your dog. Dogs who are well socialized are much less likely to bite because they respond with confidence rather than out of fear. Avoid unusual situations unless your dog encounters diverse people, animals and situations with confidence.
  • Teach your dog acceptable behaviors. Enroll in an obedience class, which teaches your dog good manners and behavior.
  • Assume responsibility for behavior problems. Never just give away a dog with behavior problems such as biting or aggression. Consult your veterinarian, an animal behaviorist, or an obedience instructor regarding how to modify and manage these unacceptable behaviors. If you must give up your dog because its behavior problem has not been cured with professional help, please contact Animal Control.
Gwen Lebec May 17, 2012 at 02:01 PM
This opinion piece is correct, as far as it goes. There is, however, a huge difference between a Chihuahua bite and a pit bull bite. The attraction to big dogs with a genetic heritage of fighting or guarding is something we need to get over or regulate.
Zac Farber (Editor) May 17, 2012 at 02:25 PM
Dan Niziolek said that, though rarer, cat bites are actually more dangerous than dog bites. "Even though people chuckle about it, we’ve had one cat that attacked three different times people walking on a public sidewalk," he said. "I’ve had more officers hospitalized for cat bites than I have for dog bites because of the chance of getting an infection."
Barada May 19, 2012 at 08:41 PM
Doesn't the city keep statistics on what breeds are involved in biting events? If so, where are they? If not, why not?
Chris DeJoseph June 23, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Any large dog has the ability to inflict more damage than a small dog, but this isn't an issue of breed. Even small dogs have killed. Clearly you are biased against "pit bull" types because you pointed them out rather than say, German Shepherds, Rottweilers or any other dog often trained for protection.

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