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Dog bite claims - USA data

Guthrie Insurance

Dog bite claims fall, except for mail carriers

Last year, dogs were slightly less bitey, but they made an exception for mail carriers.

Who's a good dog? The ones responsible for the 2.1% decrease in insurance claims for dog bites in 2012 are good dogs, says a report released Wednesday by State Farm, which covers dog bites under renters and homeowners insurance policies. But the insurer still cited 3,670 dog bite claims, costing an average of $29,522 for everything from stitches and shots to lawsuits and reconstructive surgery.

Fido's lenience was not extended to the U.S. Postal Service, which reported 5,879 bites and attacks last year, 274 more than in 2011.

As states continue to crack down on biting dogs and to enact leash laws, the 43 million dog-owning households are increasingly on guard against losing their best friends to animal control and paying through the nose for victims' medical costs and lawsuits, says Loretta Worters, Vice President of the Insurance Information Institute.

"There's two lies we hear at the Postal Service. One is, "The check's in the mail," and two is, "My dog won't bite,' " says Mark Saunders, USPS spokesman. He adds that it's almost never the postal service's fault that you haven't received your check, and usually the person who owes you just hasn't sent it yet.

Leading the list of dog bite claims were California, coming in first, with 451 claims costing $17.1 million; Illinois at 337 claims costing $9 million at second; and Texas with 236 claims costing $4.3 million at third. Six states on State Farm's Top 10 states for dog bite claims list had improved from the year before; four — Illinois, Texas, Indiana, and Georgia — reported more claims.

Avoid dog bites:

• Get sniffed. Always let a dog see and sniff you before petting, says the USPS

• Consult a trainer. You're liable for your dog's behavior, says Worters. "The most dangerous dogs are dogs that fall victim to human shortcomings such as poor training and irresponsible ownership."

• Avoid angry dogs. When dogs are angry, they stand forward on their haunches, with ears forward, face tense, teeth showing, hair bristling, and tail stiff and twitching, says Kathy Voigt, founder of nonprofit Prevent the Bite.

• Watch those kids. Because they're closer to mouth level, children are much more likely to be injured, and much more likely to be bitten in the face or head, says Worters.

• Don't run way. "Dogs naturally love to chase after things and catch things like balls or Frisbees, so you don't want to give them a reason to get excited and start chasing you," says State Farm Agent Tawana Mensah.

• Keep the dog away. If you're afraid your dog will bite whoever's at the door, keep the dog in another room and close the door, says Saunders. "You can't really hold them by the collar while you try to sign for something and take the package. We have a lot of incidents occur that way."

• Be a tree or a rock. If a scary dog approaches, "Don't move, don't make noise. Let them stiff you, and they'll think you're a tree or a rock and walk away," says Voigt.

Source: USA Today

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