Spring has finally arrived, meaning more people walking and jogging, more kids playing outside. Getting outdoors can also mean more interactions with dogs.

April 8-14 is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Any dog – even the normally friendly pet next door – can inflict a serious bite. Take a moment to view these tips for keeping you and your children safe.

Even dog lovers get bitten

The vast majority of the 70 million dogs in the U.S. are wonderful pets and companions. But the American Veterinary Medical Foundation reminds us that more than 1 million people suffer dog bites each year serious enough to require medical attention.

  • Children, the elderly and postal employees are the most frequent victims of dog bites. More than 6,000 mail carriers were attacked in 2016, the U.S. Postal Service reports.
  • More dogs increase the danger. Adults with two dogs in the house are 5 times more likely to be bitten, the AVMA reports.
  • Dogs can cause severe injuriesDog attacks result in more than 29,000 reconstructive surgeries each year, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Children are especially vulnerable to bites on the head and face.
  • Dog bites are expensive. The Insurance Information Institute says insurers paid out more than $700 million in dog bite claims in 2017. The average payment was about $33,000.

6 tips for avoiding dog bites

This advice applies at any age, but it is important to teach children how to behave around dogs, whether it is a stray animal or the pup next door. Children are naturally trusting and attracted to dogs. They need to be taught how to minimize dog bite risks and how to read the body language of a dog that is stressed, frightened, threatened or defending its “turf.”

  1. Do not pet a strange dog that is not with its owner.
  2. Ask a dog’s owner for permission to pet it. If they say no, respect that.
  3. Do not reach over or through a fence to pet a dog.
  4. Do not approach a dog that is nursing or resting with her puppies.
  5. Do not pet or disturb a dog that is sleeping or eating.
  6. Avoid making sudden moves, aggressive gestures or loud noises near a dog.

Pet owners are strictly liable when their dogs attack

New Jersey is a strict liability state. This means that dog owners are legally responsible if their dog attacks someone, even if the dog has never bitten, chased or knocked anyone down before. The damages (medical care, lost income, scarring, pain and suffering, emotional trauma) are typically handled as a homeowner’s insurance claim. One-third of all homeowner claims are dog-related.

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? What were the circumstances?