By Lee Talbot
State Farm Agent
Last year, August and September were the leading months for dog bite claims in Maryland. With an estimated 89.7 million dogs living in U.S. households, dog bites are bound to happen. Most dogs will never bite, but it is important to remember that any dog can bite regardless of breed or type.
To show you how widespread the problem is, consider this: In 2018, State Farm paid $123 million as a result of 3,280 dog bite and injury claims. Over the past 10 years, State Farm paid more than $1.1 billion for dog bite claims.
Maryland was one of the top 25 states in 2018 in number of State Farm dog bite claims, with an average payout of $20,880 per claim. The top three states for 2018 dog bite claims are California, Illinois and Ohio, respectively.
Children make up more than 50% of all dog bite victims, and the highest risk group among children is ages 5 to 9 years old. The elderly and home service people, like mail carriers, are also high on the list of frequent dog bite victims. Being bitten or attacked by a dog can leave physical and emotional scars. For the dog, it can be a death sentence.
Here are some other tips from Norman to help prevent dog bites:
• Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet. Children are often bitten by dogs in their own household.
• Make sure your pet is socialized so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
• Walk and exercise your dog on a leash to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
• Regular veterinary visits are essential to regulating the health of your dog. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
• Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog, caution them to wait before petting the dog. Give your pet time to be comfortable with the stranger.
• Understand and respond to changes in your dog’s body language. Look at the eyes, ears, tail, and posture to know when your dog may be happy, fearful or angry.
• Spay or neuter. This procedure can help reduce your dog's aggressive behaviors.
Homeowners should talk to their insurance agents about coverage under a standard homeowner policy. Pet owners should consider a personal liability umbrella policy (PLUP) to provide extra coverage in case their dog bites someone. Renters should consider getting renters insurance because most landlords do not provide coverage should there be a dog bite incident.
For more information, contact Lee Talbot at 410-647-5900. Talbot’s State Farm office is located at 170 Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.