Sunday, May 22, 2011


Did all of you make it through National Dog Bite Prevention Week without being bitten or, even worse, having your dog bite someone else?  I say even worse because that could possibly leave you exposed to a liability claim.  Most dog owners think their dog will NEVER bite someone and, unfortunately, some of you will find out that is simply not true.  Under the right circumstances, even the best trained dogs can act in an unpredictable manner.  This week's issue of Questions On Dogs and Cats addresses the topic of dog bites and liability insurance concerns.

But first, a little house-keeping is in order.  Helpful Buckeye really appreciates all the e-mail messages received about our 3rd birthday of this blog.  Thanks for taking the time to send those!  The poll questions from last week on pet health insurance provided answers that were pretty much in line with published numbers.  About 15% of respondents said they carry some form of health insurance for their pets.  Of those having used pet health insurance, about 75% said their experience was good and 25% said their experience was bad.  Be sure to answer this week's poll questions in the column to the left.

To begin, let's take a few minutes to listen to a noted animal behavioral specialist as she explains various dog bite prevention strategies:

As you can tell from the above information, children and mail deliverers suffer more than their share of dog bites. Here is a review from the conference this year:

The American Veterinary Medical Association hosts this year's National Dog Bite Prevention Week to help stop the nearly 5 million dog bites that happen every year. Internationally recognized dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, from Animal Planet's "It's Me or the Dog," joined AVMA veterinarians, the United States Postal Service (USPS), pediatricians, plastic surgeons and representatives of the insurance industry in offering tips to prevent dog bites.

At the Houston, Texas kick-off for 2011's National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the USPS announced the top-10 cities in which letter carriers were attacked most often. Houston ranked number one out of 1,400 cities. More than 5,669 postal workers are attacked by dogs across the country.

"Veterinarians recognize, while there are 72 million good dogs in the United States, any dog can bite if it is frightened or feels threatened, even the family pet. Unfortunately, children are most often the victims," says Dr. Larry M. Kornegay, AVMA president.

A passionate advocate for science-based, force-free training methods, Victoria Stilwell joined the National Dog Bite Prevention campaign to help support studies from board-certified veterinary behaviorists and behavioral scientists suggesting that forcing dogs into submission (e.g., leash yanking, rolling them on their backs) as a means of preventing and correcting behavioral problems, may have potentially dangerous consequences for owners. Because fear and anxiety are common causes of aggression, the use of dominance techniques and/or punishment can directly exacerbate the problem by increasing the animal's fear and anxiety.

"Dogs need and want us to provide effective leadership, but the most effective leaders do not simply impose their will on their followers," says Stilwell. "And I firmly believe the only way to truly ensure that we are successful in achieving the necessary balance with our dogs is by using positive reinforcement and treating them with the same respect that we ask of them. It's not the breed of the dog that causes the bite, but rather how well the dog is trained and controlled."

Injury rates are highest among children between the ages of 5 and 9 years old. The dogs biting these children are not strangers. In victims younger than 18 years old, the family dog inflicts 30 percent of all dog bites, and a neighbor's dog is responsible for another 50 percent of these bites.

"The AVMA urges all families to start early in educating children about safety around dogs, even if you don't own a dog," Dr. Kornegay says. "We have numerous engaging educational programs for children starting as young as preschool to teach children the right and the wrong way to interact with dogs."

Joining the AVMA and the USPS to spread the word that dog attacks are preventable are: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, Prevent The Bite, and the Insurance Information Institute.

This press release is from:

Most of us are aware of the damage that a large, uncontrolled dog can cause but...we all need to remember that:

Experts warn that any dog can bite

When Courtney Nelson heard that 7-month-old Annabelle Mitchell had been killed Tuesday by the Mitchell family’s Rottweiler, her first reaction was the same as that of many Mainers: shock and sorrow. “I cried. I can’t even talk about it right now. It tears me up,” the assistant director at the Houlton Humane Society said Thursday. “I can’t even fathom what that baby went through.”

But then Nelson got back to work. For the past 11 years, she has been caring for animals at the no-kill shelter and trying to find them adoptive families, including the dogs that can be harder to place, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers. “I think it’s great for kids to be brought up around animals. It teaches them responsibility. It teaches them kindness,” she said. “But it can turn in an instant, and you just don’t know. They can be very scary, and they can be your best friend.”

Two days after the tragedy in Frankfort, which state officials believe to be the first dog bite-related fatality in Maine in at least 40 years, dog experts like Nelson cautioned against demonizing the breed of dog involved.

“Everyone is making this a Rottweiler issue, which is a huge mistake. Any dog can bite,” said Don Hanson of Green Acres Kennel in Bangor. “Any breed of dog can behave inappropriately, can be aggressive and can kill someone.” He said that one of his colleagues in Florida had a case where a Pomeranian, a toy dog, killed an infant.

After Wednesday’s attack in Frankfort, a Waldo County deputy shot the Rottweiler at the request of Annabelle’s father. An autopsy that was begun Wednesday on the baby’s body was expected to be completed Friday afternoon, said an official at the state medical examiner’s office in Augusta.

The Rottweiler, a type of dog originally bred for its guarding and herding traits, was listed as the second-most-likely breed of dog to be involved in a human-dog bite-related fatality, according to a 2000 special report from the Journal of the American Veterinary Association. Pit bulls were involved in 66 bite fatalities reported between 1979 and 1998. The Rottweiler was involved in 39 bite fatalities in the same time period. Although the report lists the dogs involved in fatal human attacks, it does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year, resulting in 16 deaths on average.

The state CDC does not keep track of dog bites in Maine, said Dr. Stephen Sears, the acting director of the agency. “I think fatalities are very unusual, but they happen,” he said. “You hear about small people with big dogs. The pit bulls and babies. Those tend to be pretty intense in the media, and they’re terrible.”

Hanson, a certified dog behavior consultant and certified professional dog trainer, said that he works with dogs with a wide range of behavioral issues, including aggression, fear and phobias.

“It’s really tragic,” he said of the baby’s death. “People really need to supervise their dogs and kids. And people need to learn about dogs.” One thing people might not know about dogs is that they’re not just like us, he said. “A dog is not a furry little person that understands right from wrong with our same moral compass,” he said. “They’re a very different species.”

Another thing is that dogs and kids are not automatically the best of friends. “It’s a lot of work to have dogs and kids and do everything right and keep everyone safe,” Hanson said. “Timmy and Lassie is an extremely heartwarming story. It really makes us all feel good. It was also an incredible piece of fiction.”

The behavioral expert said he doesn’t know enough about the Frankfort tragedy to speculate about what caused the dog’s aggression. But what often can cause aggression is a dominance and punishment based approach to training, he said. Instead, he encourages reward-based training, careful management and building up a bond with the dog. He also urges people to recognize that each dog is an individual, and not all dogs will be friendly extroverts with all other animals and people. “We see a lot of people who seem to think that their dog should be like every other person and dog on the planet,” Hanson said. “That’s not a realistic expectation.”
Sometimes those expectations of dogs can belie the fact that, as experts repeated, any dog is capable of being vicious.

Nelson said that she has seen a great number of Rottweilers come through the Houlton shelter in 11 years, and 95 percent of them are “the best dogs." “They’re gentle giants, they really are,” she said.

On the other hand, the shelter once took in a golden retriever that had had a litter of puppies and had attacked a little girl that approached the puppies. “It took her by the throat,” Nelson recalled. “It can be any breed of dog … I’ve dealt with pit bulls that would lap your face and I’ve dealt with poodles that would rather rip it off.”

Although the girl in that instance was not greatly harmed by the retriever, the lesson that Nelson has learned is that you must always supervise kids and dogs, which she practices at her home. “I never leave my dogs alone. I know they’d never do anything. I just never give them the chance to make that mistake,” she said. Nelson also has taught her 4-year-old son to be very gentle with the family pets. “We teach him you don’t wake a sleeping dog. You don’t run up and jump on them,” she said. “Just like anybody, people have their space and dogs have their space.”
Another tip is to get animals spayed and neutered, which she said can minimize problems with aggression. “I can’t praise it enough, especially in males,” Nelson said.
But should a dog snap, and attack, she recommends grabbing it by the hind legs. “It breaks their stance and their stability, and it’ll break their lock,” she said. “You don’t want to go in and grab them by the collar. If they’re overstimulated, they’re overstimulated. They just see red.”

Hanson said that the hind-leg technique can work, and throwing water at a dog also might cause it to disengage. “To be really honest, I think everybody acts instinctually, and does what they think they need to do,” he said. “But anytime you intervene in such a situation, there’s a high probability you’re going to get bit. Obviously, in a situation where another living thing is being hurt, you need to do what you need to do. People need to know there’s nothing that’s guaranteed risk-free.”

This article calls attention to the potential danger from any breed of dog and was taken from:

What would you do if you became involved in a dog fight? Here are some good suggestions from the folks at

It's not something we want to think about, but it happens from time to time -- a dog fight. They can happen at the dog park, when you are out for a walk, or in front of a crowded patio restaurant. Our reaction is often to freak out, yell, grab for the dogs' collars -- which, it turns out, may be all the wrong ways to react, putting ourselves in harm's way without even realizing it.

Getting involved in a dogfight is dangerous and it's not something we recommend. But we also know that when your dog is at risk, protective instincts kick in. That's why we asked dog safety expert Melanie Monteiro, author of "The Safe Dog Handbook - A Complete Guide To Protecting Your Pooch, Indoors and Out" to find out what she does to prevent and deal with dog fights.

1. Know the Dangers--The first thing Monteiro notes is that you must understand that it is likely you will be hurt. "You're always putting yourself in physical jeopardy when you go in to break up a dog fight," she says. "I've been injured doing it and several of my friends have been injured doing it." But there are general ideas to consider that will make you more informed if you do wade into a fight.
2. Be Alert--When you're out in public with your dog, be very aware of your surroundings. "Pay attention to your dog. If you're out walking and distracted by texting, or talking on the phone, you might not be prepared when a dog jumps out of an open garage door, or comes around the corner," says Monteiro.
3. Watch Body Language--A key to avoiding a fight it to learn to read what the other dogs are trying to tell you, says Monteiro. Signs a dog might be about to act aggressively include a still body posture, hackles being raised, growling and exposed teeth, to name a few. Other potential signs of concern include if the dog is behaving in a dominating way such as standing over the other dog. If you see a dog behaving this way -- or if your dog starts acting up -- it is time for you and your dog to move away.
4. Acknowledge Minor Skirmishes--Sometimes a little dust-up happens and it is over as quickly as it began. "Most dog grievances resolve themselves in a matter of moments," notes Monteiro. It is good not to overreact when these happen.
5. Understand What Happens During a Fight--When dogs go into a full-fledged fight, however, explains Monteiro, they go into a whole other zone. Your sweet little pooch can change as it gets into something that is deeply primal. "When they're in this other zone, the usual human reaction of yelling, grabbing collars and stuff isn't going to work. Your normally responsive dog is not going to respond to you. Yelling and screaming is only going to further charge the atmosphere. If you shove your hands and arms into the dogs' faces to grab the collars, your arm is now part of the fight and the dogs will more than likely bite you."  You should also think of how to diminish your risk. "If you're walking your dog on a leash and your dog gets attacked, the first thing you should do is drop your leash," Monteiro says. "You could get tangled, your dog will get tangled, and you could get injured."
6. Consider the Old Standby --Water.  "If you have access to a garden hose you can turn it on and spray the dogs in their faces with the hose. You're getting water in their mouths and faces that way," Monteiro explains. "You can also dump a bucket of water over their heads." However, since these two options aren't always readily available, this following tip is only a promising possibility.
7. Lift and Pull Fighting Dogs Apart by Their Back Legs--As already mentioned, Monteiro does not recommend grabbing two fighting dogs by the collars. Instead, Monteiro suggests, "If you have someone to help you, you can grab the hind legs of the each dog and pull them backwards away from each other and off to the side. The theory here is that you'll knock them off their balance and change their focus." The hope is that they go from attack mode to wondering, "What the heck is going on here?" If you have no one to help you, you can try just grabbing the hind legs of the most aggressive dog and pulling him backwards."
8. Try Using a Physical Barrier--Another option is to put something between the fighting dogs. "Use a trashcan lid, chair, or any kind of large object that you can wedge between them," says Monteiro. This is very helpful at the dog park, there are often lots of trashcans around with lids and you can grab one and insert it between the fighting dogs."
9. Out of Sight, Out of Mind--If you are able to break up the fight, the next step is to put some distance between the dogs. "Get the fighting dogs on leashes and take them in opposite directions immediately. Go behind a car or something, just get them out of each other's view." Once they can't see or easily reach each other, stop and tend wounds and make sure everyone is OK.
10. Always Always Always Keep Yourself Safe--"You have to protect yourself or you're a worthless rescuer to your dog," reminds Monteiro. "You're not going to be able to help your dog if you're in the middle of the fight or become part of the fight. Your priority is to keep yourself safe."

This advice from:

Here are some dog bite prevention tips from the U. S. Postal Service:

"Don't worry, my dog won't bite'' is heard all too often by postal service employees, but any dog will bite. That's according to the U.S. Postal Service, whose carriers are experts on the matter. They want to help stamp out dog bites, and offer these tips.

• Spayed or neutered dogs are less likely to bite.
• Dogs can be protective of their territory and may interpret the actions of letter carriers as a threat. Please take precautions when accepting mail in the presence of your pet.
• If a dog threatens you, don't scream. Avoid eye contact, remain motionless until the dog leaves, then back away slowly until the dog is out of sight.
• Never turn your back to a dog and run away. A dog's natural instinct will be to chase and catch you.
• When accepting mail at your door, place your dog in a separate room and close the door.
• If you believe a dog is about to attack you, try to place something between you and the dog, such as a purse, a backpack or a bicycle.

Postal workers aren't saying they're the most likely targets for biters. Children and the elderly are ranked No. 1 and No. 2. The Insurance Information Institute says 15,770 claims were paid out for dog bites last year to the tune of $412 million, up slightly from the previous year.
The U.S. Postal Service does track where bites occur, though, and Houston led all cities last year with 62 followed by San Diego and Columbus, Ohio with 45 each. Finishing out the top 10: L.A. (44), Louisville (40), San Antonio and St. Louis (39), Cleveland and Phoenix (38), and Minneapolis and Portland, Oregon (35).

Last year, 33 people died from dog bites.

This information from:

Some interesting information from the Insurance Information Institute:

Dogs in Illinois take the second-biggest bite out of State Farm’s claim expenses nationally, accounting for the most bites and total payouts nationally after California.

Florida, meanwhile, has among the most costly incidents on average.

For the first time ever, the nation's biggest home and auto insurer released the top 10 states for dog bite claims and the amounts paid out as a result of chomping pooches.

Illinois – the nation’s fifth most populous state -- ranks second in the number of dog-bite insurance claims and highest total payouts, after population-leading California. Bloomington-based State Farm had 369 dog-bite claims in California in 2010 and paid out $11.3 million. The insurer had 317 claims in Illinois in 2010, and paid out $9.7 million.

But among the states in the top 10, Florida’s claims are the highest per incident, at $38,356, according to an analysis of State Farm’s numbers by the Chicago Tribune. The average claim for both California and Illinois, in contrast, was about $30,600.

State Farm’s top 10 didn’t particularly reflect the size of the states. Minnesota, which ranks 21st in population, ranked eighth in dog bites. Similarly, Indiana, the 16th most populous state, ranked 10th.

State Farm, which paid $90 million nationwide as the result of nearly 3,500 dog bites in 2010, also said that the dog-bite rankings weren’t particularly indicative of how much business it did in particular states. State Farm, the nation’s leading home and auto insurer, doesn’t refuse insurance based on dog breed, but does require policyholders to answer questions about their dogs’ history on homeowners’ insurance applications. One exception is the state of Ohio, which has determined that pit bulls meet the definition of a “vicious dog,” and therefore State Farm doesn’t provide coverage under its homeowners’ policies in Ohio for that breed. Nonetheless, Ohio, the nation’s seventh-most populous state, ranked third in the number of claims for dog bites, with State Farm paying out $5.7 million for 215 claims.

Other states rounding out State Farm’s top 10 were Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania and New York.

The Insurance Information Institute, a trade group, estimates that U.S. insurers paid $412 million in dog bite claims in 2009.

Dog bites caused 33 deaths last year, including two in Illinois.

The source for this review was:,0,7292528.story

Even though pet health insurance and pet liability insurance would seem to occupy the opposite ends of the insurance spectrum, they both might be important considerations for many pet owners when they sit down to think about the risk of a particular problem happening and the resulting financial consequences of that event. As pointed out at the beginning, a pet owner considering these two forms of insurance is gambling on whether or not certain things might happen...a financially devastating disease for their dog or cat or a big financial settlement for a neighbor child who has been bitten by their dog. The only other realistic option for a conscientious pet owner would be the "self-insured" route, in which you would put away a certain amount of money into a dedicated account to be used only for a necessary large financial outlay involving your pet. Everyone looks at these choices in a different do you view the situation?  In addition to health insurance for your pet, you might also need to talk with your regular insurance agent concerning liability insurance if you have a dog that might be a biter...remembering, of course, that even your little "Fifi" or "Muffin" can inflict some damage.

Any comments or questions about either type of insurance will be welcome at:

Not much to report this week...the Dodgers are still playing at half-speed and their record reflects that.  The Dallas Mavericks are 3 games into their series with Oklahoma City, holding a 2-1 edge.  The NFL situation hasn't changed.  Ohio State football is still involved in an apparent pack of lies.  Basically, Helpful Buckeye's spectator sports world has ground to a screeching halt.  It's a good thing I have my 2011 Quadathlon to keep me occupied!


Congratulations to Bobbie, in Louisiana, for sending in the correct answer to Helpful Buckeye's question last week about what animal, other than humans, can contract leprosy.  She correctly reported it is an armadillo and went on to say that they have their share of those in Louisiana...with most of the ones she's seen lying dead along the interstates.

Desperado and Helpful Buckeye completed our field research this week for the first event of Quadathlon 2011.  The event will take place on the first day that offers acceptable weather road crew is prepared and ready to go, on short notice, when needed.  They heard about our post-event celebrations last year and I think they are looking forward to that more than anything!  Can you say, "Una mas cerveza?"

With this being the time of year for a lot of graduations, consider these words:
"Graduation is only a concept. In real life every day you graduate. Graduation is a process that goes on until the last day of your life. If you can grasp that, you'll make a difference."
--Arie Pencovici

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~

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