Local News

Dog Bite Prevention Tips Can Help Kids Protect Themselves

Posted February 27, 1999

— Kids and dogs can have fun together, but that is not always the case.

TheNational Centers for Disease Control and Preventionsay half of all children age 12 and younger have been bitten; one in four require medical attention.

But the bites and maulings are much tougher on kids than adults, as kids are three times more likely to require medical attention.

Just ask the Wercholuk family in Franklin County.

"In the hospital I was breaking down in tears, I couldn't control that," says D. J. Wercholuk.

Three years ago, he found it hard to look at his five-year-old daughter Ashley, who was attacked by a neighbor's dog.

"My little girl had her skull penetrated from the teeth," said Wercholuk.

A home video from that day three years ago illustrates the pain Ashley and her family went through as a result of the attack. In the video, Ashley sits in a hospital bed, coloring. - "I'm in the hospital," Ashley says in the video.

- "What happened to you?" her father asks.

- "A dog bit me on the back," she says.

- "Do you think all doggies are safe?" asks Wercholuk. "Some are good doggies and some are bad?"

- "Some are bad doggies and some are good doggies," Ashley says.

Even though most of her physical scars are gone, Ashley still has a lot of healing to do on the inside, said her father.

"That's one reason she's not here (at this interview)," Wercholuk said. "She doesn't want to talk about it."

Veterinarian Dr. Barbara Simpson, and many experts agree that five- through nine-year-olds are at a greater risk for bites than other children. That is because they are more mobile than younger kids and less likely to be closely supervised.

"We certainly want to educate children to the proper way of interacting with dogs," said Simpson.

"Where we see dog bites is in children whose movements are often jerky -- reaching for the dog, grabbing his ears, that sort of thing," said Simpson. "That's not what we want children to do."

And not every dog that wags its tail is friendly, so what should a child do if it is the dog who is being aggressive?

Simpson demonstrated with her daughter Diana and their dog, which is trained to be tolerant.

"This dog is a therapy dog," said Simpson. "She's a certified therapy dog"

(WatchQuicktimeorReal Videofile.)

Simpson says if a dog approaches, children can take a non-threatening position by acting like a tree. That is, the child should make his or her hands into a fist and stands completely still.

Or if a child is knocked down by a dog, or is on the ground when it approaches, he or she should do what Simpson calls, "act like a log."

"Roll over, on your side, pull your knees up, and put your hands over your ears," said Simpson.

Simpson said these positions would not prevent all bites, but any bites that did occur would hopefully be less severe than the ones Wercholuk's daughter experienced.

"We don't talk about it," said Wercholuk. "We try to overcome it. But it's definitely there."

Other safety tips children should know include:

  • Never approach a strange dog, especially one behind a fence, chained up, or in a car.
  • Don't assume that every dog that wags its tail is friendly.
  • And never put your face close to a dog's face.

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