Westfield State Farm Agent Christine Cosenza shares dog bite prevention safety tips.

Last year, August was one of the leading months for dog bite claims in New Jersey and was the highest month nationally. With an estimated 89.7 million dogs living in U.S. households, dog bites are bound to happen.

“Most dogs will never bite, but it is important to remember that any dog can bite regardless of breed or type,” said Westfield State Farm Agent Christine Cosenza. “In 2018, State Farm paid $123 million as a result of 3,280 dog bite and injury claims. Over the past 10 years, State Farm paid more than $1.1 billion for dog bite claims.”

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New Jersey was ranked #14 in 2018 in number of State Farm dog bite claims, with an average pay out of $72,000 per claim, totaling $5.6 million. The number of claims in New Jersey decreased by 15.9% from 2017, but the amount paid for claims in the state increased by 16.7%. The top three states for 2018 dog bite claims are California, Illinois and Ohio, respectively.

Children make up more than 50% of all dog bite victims and the highest risk group in children are ages 5-9 years old. The elderly and home service people, like mail carriers, are also high on the list of frequent dog bite victims. Being bitten or attacked by a dog can leave physical and emotional scars. For the dog, it can be a death sentence.

“State Farm is one of the few insurance companies in the country that does not have a breed restriction list and does not exclude homeowner or renter insurance coverage because of the breed of dog owned,” explained Christine. “State Farm also recognizes that, under the right circumstances, any dog might bite.  That is why we encourage people to be responsible pet owners and educate the public, especially children, on how to safely approach a dog.”

Christine offers these tips to help prevent dog bites:

NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet. Children are often bitten by dogs in their own household.

Make sure your pet is socialized so he feels at ease around people and other animals.

Walk and exercise your dog on a leash to keep him healthy and provide mental stimulation.

Regular veterinary visits are essential to regulating the health of your dog. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.

Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog, caution them to wait before petting the dog. Give your pet time to be comfortable with the stranger.

Understand and respond to changes in your dogs’ body language. Look at the eyes, ears, tail and posture to know when your dog may be happy, fearful or angry.

Spay or neuter. This procedure can help reduce your dog's aggressive behaviors.

Homeowners should talk to their insurance agents about coverage under a standard homeowner policy. Pet owners should consider a personal liability umbrella policy (PLUP) to provide extra coverage in case their dog does bite someone. Renters should consider getting renters insurance because most landlords do not provide coverage should there be a dog bite incident.

Additional resource:

When Your Dog Bites