Dangerous Dogs: Education key to fewer bites

Experts say education is the key to preventing dog bites.
Experts say education is the key to preventing dog bites.

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) – Animal Control supervisor Josh Klumpe spends his days patrolling the city of Lafayette coming into contact with dozens of animals every month. One of the most common dog breeds is the pit bull, or a pit bull mix.

“There are a lot of them out there due to back-yard breeding and over population,” Klumpe said. “That’s why you do see more problems just because there are so many of them.”

Of the 55 reported dog bites in the city of Lafayette last year 23 came from pit bulls. Klumpe said it’s not because pit bulls are more aggressive he said there are just more pit bulls in the community.

Almost Home Humane Society executive director Stacy Rogers said at any given point in the year at least half of the dogs at the shelter are pit bulls or pit bull mixes, but looks can be deceiving.

“What you see is when they run DNA tests, often times dogs that just by looks have been deemed a pit bull have no American Staffordshire Terrier or American Pit Bull Terrier anywhere in their DNA lineage,” Rogers said.

Klumpe said in his experience pit bulls are no more likely to bite someone than other dogs.

“Every dog can bite somebody,” Klumpe said. “If it’s got teeth, it can bite, and no breed is more likely to bite than the other.”

So, why do dogs bite?

Purdue Pet Wellness Clinic director Dr. Steve Thompson said it’s because they are not socialized. When a dog is young, less than four months old, it’s important they are exposed to people, loud noises and different environments. If a dog learns that growling or biting is acceptable at that age it may cause problems down the road.

“Unfortunately that’s the bigger challenge, especially for society, when we have bigger dogs that using teeth is an effective method to make some situation, person or dog go away,” Thompson said.

For non-pet owners, Klumpe said the number one thing you can do to protect yourself is being more careful when you pet a strange dog for the first time. Knowing the warning signs for when a dog may be about to bite is another helpful tool.

“If they start yawning, lip-licking or the whites of their eyes are showing it’s a clear sign to somebody who knows dogs that they are uncomfortable but maybe not to just the average person,” Rogers said. “It’s good to be educated on their body language.”

According to the American Humane Association 82 percent of people treated for dog bites in the U.S. are younger than 15 years old. Animal control officers like Klumpe are going into the classroom to teach children about dog behavior. A measure to prevent the number of reported dog bites and help develop responsible pet owners.

The more pet owners and non-pet owners know about dogs and with officers like Klumpe continuing to patrol the streets city officials hope 55 dog bites a year is a high point and not the start of a growing trend.

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