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This week is Dog Bite Prevention Week in Albany

Dogs are among the most popular pets in New York and across the country. It is estimated that there are 78 million pet dogs in the United States today. Many people love their dogs because of the companionship they can offer. Many others value their dogs for their ability to help on the farm or on a hunting trip and their natural guard-dog instincts.

However, a dog's instincts can often lead to an unprovoked dog attack. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 4.5 million people suffer dog bites each year. Although many dog bites cause only minor injuries, severe dog attacks send nearly one million people to the hospital each year. Severe dog bites can require reconstructive surgery and tens of thousands of dollars in medical expenses. With those concerns in mind, this week marks National Dog Bite Prevention Week.

Some dog bites are caused by stray dogs, but the majority of dog bites result from the actions of a family pet. All too often, a family pet will attack a friend of the family or a houseguest. Many owners of dogs that have bitten a person believe the bite was an unusual action for their otherwise friendly dog. However, the same behavior that a dog will tolerate from its owner may result in an attack when an unfamiliar person is involved. Some of the most tragic dog bite incidents happen when a child sees a dog's owner playing with the dog by roughly petting it or putting his face near the dog's face only to copy the owner's behavior and then get bit in the process.

Fortunately, many dog bites can be avoided. Most dogs that bite will exhibit warning signs and responsible dog owners should take action on small incidents before a dog seriously injures somebody. Unfortunately, it may take several incidents of a dog nipping at a person before an owner takes action. If a dog owner ignores a dog's aggressive behavior and their dog injures another person, that dog owner can be legally responsible for the pain, suffering and medical expenses of the dog bite victim.

Source: Huffington Post, "Dog Bite Prevention Week: A Time to Take Responsibility for Dog Bites," Sophia Yin, 5/16/2011

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