Nearly 4.5 million Americans were bitten by dogs last year, including more than 2 million children, according to new data released by the U.S. Postal Service this week
. The attacks account for up to 5 percent of emergency room visits, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted
The figures were announced ahead of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a public-service campaign that reminds dog owners of the need for increased responsibility to help fight one of the country's most commonly reported public health issues. Small children, the elderly, and letter carriers are the most frequent dog-bite victims, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, the U.S. Humane Society, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What's more, the U.S. Postal Service, which reported 5,581 victims last year, listed Houston as the worst city in the nation for attacks on letter carriers. Last year's leader, Los Angeles, came in second place.
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"There's a myth we often hear at the Postal Service, 'Don't worry — my dog won't bite," Postal Service Manager of Safety Linda DeCarlo said in a news release. "Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem. Any dog can bite and all attacks are preventable through responsible pet ownership."
Along with statistics, the Postal Service also offered several suggestions on how to prevent dog bites:
- If mail is delivered to the front door, place the dog in a separate room and close the door before accepting the mail. A screen door or glass windows is no match for a determined dog.
- Kids should be reminded to keep the dog secured and not to take mail from letter carriers in the pet's presence. A dog could interpret this as a threat.
- Never leave a dog alone with a small child.
- Always ask permission before touching or playing with a dog you don't know.
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