Officials give tips to prevent dog bites

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 23, 2003

This week is National Dog Bite Prevention Week. Dogs bite more than four million Americans each year.

If you are a dog owner there are ways to reduce the risk of your dog being a part of these numbers. The Humane Society of the United States advises dog owners to spay or neuter pets. This reduces a dog's desire to roam or fight with other dogs. Spayed or neutered dogs are three times less likely to bite.

Also, introduce your dog to many different types of people and situations so the dog will not get nervous or frightened. Take your dog to a training class. Training your dog is a family matter. Don't play aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling.

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Mike Chavez, a postal worker since 1995, was bit by a dog this past year. He was delivering on his regular walking route. The owner of the house was sitting on her porch when her small Pomeranian dog came out from under a patio table and bit Chavez on the leg.

"I didn't even know I was bit until I was walking down the street and saw I was bleeding," Chavez said.

When a dog bites a postal worker, and this is a common hazard in this line of work, he or she must file a report with a community service officer.

Dan Heins, the Austin Post Master said, "When a postal worker gets bit, this goes against the home owner's insurance and they must cover. Postal workers are provided with mace and their mail satchels are to be used for protection if a dog attacks him or her. Homeowners are advised to keep their dogs tethered to prevent such incidents."

Dogs have chased Chavez on his route. He has had his pants ripped and he has reported stray dogs to the police when he sees them roaming on his route.

"Dogs are a common problem with letter carriers. It is a hazard of the job. I like my job. I like being outdoors. I like the kids on my route," Chavez said.

Some safety tips that have been released by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons for adults and children to avoid getting bit by a dog are:

n Never approach an unfamiliar dog.

n If approached, stand like a tree.

n Never run or scream around a dog.

n If you think a dog may attack you, place something between yourself and the dog, like a backpack or bicycle.

n Don't look a dog right in the eye.

n Don't disturb a dog that is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies.

n Don't play with a dog until it sees and sniffs you.

n Children should never play with a dog without adult supervision.

If bitten seek medical help immediately. Control the bleeding and wash the area with soap and water. Seek emergency help and report the bite to your local health department, animal control agency or police.

Sheila Donnelly can be reached at 434-2233 or by e-mail at