California

California is the No. 1 state for dog-bite injuries, State Farm says

In this 2017 file photo, a pitbull named "Lucy" participates a the U.S. Postal Service "National Dog Bite Prevention Week" during an awareness event in at the YMCA in Los Angeles, California.
In this 2017 file photo, a pitbull named "Lucy" participates a the U.S. Postal Service "National Dog Bite Prevention Week" during an awareness event in at the YMCA in Los Angeles, California. Associated Press

California residents experience more dog bites than any other state in the country, according to State Farm insurance.

About 89.7 million dogs live in U.S. homes, and while most dogs will never bite, there are about 4.5 million dog bites reported each year in the United States, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. About 20 percent of those bites require medical attention.

California accounted for 488 of 3,600 State Farm's claims, resulting in $18.7 million in payments in 2017 — nearly 14 percent of all dog-bite injuries in the country that year.

In 2017, State Farm paid a total of $132 million in the 3,600 dog-related injury claims.

About a third of all homeowner's liability insurance claims are dog-bite-related, the Insurance Information Institute reports. The average payout, according to that group, was $37,051 in 2017.

The top 10 states were:

1. California: 488 claims, $18.7 million

2. Illinois: 318 claims, $12.6 million

3. Ohio: 226 claims, $5 million

4. Pennsylvania: 202 claims, $4.8 million

5. Texas: 175 claims, $6 million

6. Michigan: 153 claims, $6 million

7. Minnesota: 145 claims, $3.9 million

8. New York: 137 claims, $6.3 million

9. Indiana: 124 claims, $4.6 million

10. Georgia: 114 claims, $6.1 million

Children make up more than 50 percent of all dog-bite victims, according to State Farm. The elderly are also frequent dog-bite victims. And this stereotype apparently holds up: Mail carriers are also high on the bite list. Postal workers in Los Angeles get more dog bites than mail carriers in any other California city, the Los Angeles Daily News reports.

The Humane Society of the United States offers these tips to help prevent dog bites:

Spay or neuter your dog: The procedure helps to reduce aggressive behavior.

Socialize your dog: Introduce your dog to different people and circumstances to reduce anxiety in unfamiliar situations. Start young, ideally when your dog is a puppy. Word of warning: Watch for signs of stress, and if your dog shows dangerous behavior toward any person, the Humane Society recommends seeking professional help from a veterinarian or dog trainer.

Keep your dog from situations you know will be a stress: If your dog growls at children, for example, keep it separated from kids. If your dog panics in crowds, the Humane Society advises to leave him at home, and then work with professionals to help your dog become comfortable in these situations.

Train your dog: Classes help with socialization and proper training techniques.

While in some areas, such as Sacramento, pit buls are by far the most common breed identified in dog-bite reports, the State Farm report cautions that any dog can bite, regardless of breed. (For comparison: Chihuahuas were the second-most identified breed for dog bites in the Sacramento area.)

Sometimes, the attacks are by the family's own dog. In January, a Bay Area 4-year-old was attacked by the family's Rottweiler, KTVU reported. In this case, the dog bit the child multiple times on the scalp and head as the boy played with this brother at their Richmond home. Other times, the dog is unknown to the victim: In February, a 3-year-old was bitten by a possible service dog at a grocery store near Palm Springs, according to KESQ.

“What we want to do is educate people to remember that socializing any animal, especially with children, leads to the success of that animal in that home,” Capt. Jane Andreotti of Contra Costa Animal Services told KTVU.

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