Sunday, October 3, 2004

Dog bites in decline

Owner responsibility cited

By Matt Leingang
Enquirer staff writer

Good boy, Fido.

Hamilton County is reporting fewer dog bites, a trend that experts attribute to owner responsibility, an increase in dog training and a greater tendency for owners to euthanize dogs who bite.

A total of 1,948 dog bites were reported from 2000 to 2003 within the Hamilton County General Health District, which does not include the city of Cincinnati. Among the highlights:
Colerain Township: 334
Green Township: 198
Delhi Township: 156
Springfield Township: 155
Anderson Township: 133
Harrison city and township: 92
Loveland: 74
Cleves: 63
Source: Hamilton County General Health District.
The number of dog bites dropped from 593 in 2000 to 417 in 2003, according to a study by the Hamilton County General Health District.

The study examined only those communities within the county health district's jurisdiction, meaning that the city of Cincinnati was excluded.

A check with the Cincinnati Health Department finds 291 dog bites this year, a slightly faster pace compared with the 334 reported bites in 2003.

While the overall decline outside the city is encouraging, some communities still have unusually high numbers compared with others. Among the findings:

• Colerain Township had 334 reported dog bites from 2000 to 2003, topping all others in the study. Green Township was second with 198. Both have populations greater than 55,000, making them among the two most-populated townships in Ohio, according to the U.S. Census.

Officials had no explanation for why Colerain had so many dog bites.

• The village of Cleves reported a low of 63 dog bites, but that was considered disproportionately high given its small population of 2,700.

• About 39 percent of all dog bites happened to children ages 5-19 years old, and 29 percent of dog-bite victims lived at the same address as the dog - meaning that it's not just stray dogs that bite.

The study relied on data provided by hospitals, law enforcement agencies, veterinarians and postal workers. The report did not identify the breeds of dogs involved.

Norma Bennett Woolf, a dog trainer in Sharonville and president of Ohio Valley Dog Owners Inc., said more owners are seeking obedience training for their pets, which help explains the decline in bites.

"It's generally an education thing - not leaving children unsupervised with dogs and teaching children not to play rough," Woolf said.

County health officials plan to collect dog-bite data every quarter, hoping to spot trends and to contact homeowners in neighborhoods where dog bites may be a problem, said Kathy Lordo, assistant health commissioner.

The county might distribute brochures on bite-prevention strategies or arrange programs that promote responsible pet ownership.

Ohio law specifies that all dogs must be confined to an owner's property or under reasonable control - such as on a leash when being walked.

Every year, dogs bite more than 4.7 million Americans, resulting in 800,000 medical visits. Half of these involve children, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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