WASHINGTON - It's a biting statistic: 4.7 million people -- half of them children under 12 -- are bitten each year by a dog.
The result is costly for both victim and owner. There are 70 million dogs in the United States and, according to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance companies pay out $489 million a year in bite claims.
Add in medical costs for victims not covered by insurance, as well as emotional and physical scars, and biting dogs become more than a simple nuisance.
May 19 to May 25 is National Dog Bite Prevention week, and there are ways to cut down on bite incidents.
Veterinarian Bonnie Beaver from the American Veterinary Medical Association says dogs should never be left near children unsupervised.
"Children do strange things from the dog's perspective and the dog may not necessarily understand what's going on," Beaver says.
She says dogs bite because they are afraid, and advises getting dogs used to people when they are puppies and not isolating the animals.
Some other dog bite statistics:
- There were 2,752 reconstructive procedures in 2012 because of dog bites.
- Of the children bitten, approximately 400,000 every year need medical attention.
- Postal carriers were bitten 5,879 times in 2012, an increase of 274 from 2011.
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