Last year, 4.7 million people were bitten by dogs. Small children are the most common victims, followed by older people and United States Post Office (USPS) employees. These facts indicate why the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), the USPS and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) sponsor Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 20-26th, 2007, and they are also why U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI-11), chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, introduced a resolution (PDF) to recognize the week and call on everyone to help prevent dog bites.

"When you consider the fact that there are 61 million dogs in the United States, it becomes clear that dog bite prevention is very important," said AVMA President Roger Mahr, DVM. "The only known cures for dog bites are training, knowledge and caution. Any dog may bite if it feels threatened, if it's put into an unfamiliar situation, if it's out of control or if it's scared."

Rep. McCotter's resolution calls on all municipalities to work with the AVMA and its partners to adopt and implement effective dog bite injury prevention programs to protect children and postal workers, including laws encouraging responsible dog ownership. The resolution also recommends enforcement of animal control ordinances, adoption and enforcement of non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws (because any dog of any breed can bite), prohibition of all dog fighting, and creation of children-and-adult-based education programs, which teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention techniques.

"As pediatricians, we often see the harm inflicted when dogs bite children," said Eileen Ouellette, MD, JD, FAAP, president of the AAP. "In addition to teaching children about safety -- whether rollerblading or riding in a car -- the AAP hopes families address safety around some of their furry friends."

To help educate the public about dog bites, the AVMA has developed a brochure, "What you should know about dog bite prevention," offering tips on how to avoid being bitten, what dog owners can do to prevent their dogs from biting and how to treat dog bites. For more information on National Dog Bite Prevention Week and to access the brochure online, visit www.avma/press/publichealth/dogbite/mediakit.asp

Important dog bite prevention tips include:

-- Pick a dog that is good match for your home. Consult your veterinarian for details about the behavior of different breeds.

-- Socialize your pet. Gradually expose your puppy to a variety of people and other animals so it feels at ease in these situations; continue this exposure as your dog gets older.

-- Train your dog. Commands can build a bond of obedience and trust between man and dog. Avoid aggressive games like wrestling or tug-of-war with your dog.

-- Vaccinate your dog against rabies and other diseases.

-- Neuter or spay your dog. These dogs are less likely to bite.

-- Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.

-- Teach your child to ask a dog owner for permission before petting any dog.

-- Let a strange dog sniff you or your child before touching it, and pet it gently, avoiding the face, head and tail.

-- Never bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

-- Do not to run past a dog.

-- If a dog threatens you, remain calm. Avoid eye contact. Stand still or back away slowly until the dog leaves. If you are knocked down, curl into a ball and protect your face with your arms and fists.

If bitten, request proof of rabies vaccination from the dog owner, get the owner's name and contact information, and contact the dog's veterinarian to check vaccination records. Then immediately consult with your doctor. Clean bite wound with soup and water as soon as possible. If the attack victim is bleeding from a dog bite, immediately take them to a doctor or emergency room.

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world. More than 73,000 member veterinarians are engaged in a wide variety of professional activities. AVMA members are dedicated to advancing the science and art of veterinary medicine including its relationship to public health and agriculture. Visit the AVMA Web site at www.avma to learn more about veterinary medicine and animal care and to access up-to-date information on the association's issues, policies and activities.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical sub specialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults.

Since 1775, the U.S. Postal Service has connected friends, families, neighbors and businesses by mail. An independent federal agency, the Postal Service makes deliveries to more than 142 million addresses every day and is the only service provider to deliver to every address in the nation. The Postal Service receives no taxpayer dollars for routine operations but derives its operation revenues solely from the sale of postage, products and services.

For further information please go to: www.avma

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