Last year, more than four million people nationwide were bitten by dogs. In Leon County there were more than 400 such reports last year. When it comes to dealing with an aggressive dog, Animal Control says never, never run, that's just going to excite and challenge the dog to bite.
This is a preventable problem and Animal Control says prevention starts with education. Man's best friend or not, if dogs feel threatened or agitated, there's a chance they're going to defend themselves.
Richard Ziegler, the Leon County Animal Control director, says, "People need to be aware that dogs can bite and you need to take precautions around animals you do not know, especially strays that may just walk up to you."
If you don't believe Animal Control officers, just ask postal workers.
Amy Smith with the U.S. Postal Service says, "We had more than 3,000 carriers bitten nationwide last year. That's an average of 11 per working day. That number has declined."
In Leon County last year there were 449 dog bites.
"We have found that a majority of our bites are caused by the victims themselves. There are some simple actions they can take to protect themselves and avoid these situations," adds Ziegler.
Animal Control says to be cautious of stray dogs; avoid provoking dogs and make sure your kids know how to handle themselves and act around animals. Most importantly, if you come across a dog you don't know:
"Stand still. The dog wants to investigate you as much as you may want to pet him. Let him sniff you. Don't run away," says Ziegler.
If you're ever attacked by a dog, try to put something between you and the animal. Animal Control officers say the dog will bite whatever is closest to it. Also, if you're a dog owner, make sure your pet is vaccinated.
This awareness week also includes a push to get some pets a new home. This Saturday starting at 9 a.m. there will be an adoptathon at the Tallahassee Leon Community Animal Service Center near Tom Brown Park. There will be dogs and cats available.
How to Avoid a Dog Attack
- Keep a safe distance between yourself and dogs being walked on leash.
- Ask owner's permission before approaching a dog, on leash or in yard.
- Never approach a barking, snarling, sleeping, eating, or nursing dog.
- Do not stare the dog in the eyes.
- Turn sideways and slowly withdraw.
- Put an object such as a tree, post, or bench between you and the dog.
- Speak softly and gently to calm the dog, "Good dog, it's OK, go home."
- Stand still or maintain a constant slow pace out of the dog's territory.
- If local law allows, use pepper spray when charged by the dog.
- If charged, get something between you and the dog's mouth: umbrella, pack, jacket, stick.
- If attacked, curl up in a ball and protect your face, neck, and head.
- Report unleashed aggressive dogs to the local police.
- You can't outrun the dog, not even an Olympic sprinter could.
- Be aware of dogs a block or more ahead, change your route or turn around to avoid unleashed dogs.
- Know the weapons laws in the community you are walking in and obey them.
www.walking.about.com contributed these tips.