Dog bites are on the rise: How can you stay safe?

NBC Charlotte's The Defenders is digging through new numbers every family needs to hear.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The really tragic attacks are what get a lot of attention, but animal control officers say dog bits are something everyone needs to be aware of on a regular basis. 

Julia Conner and her dog Moya make a pretty good team. Conner, who is an animal control officer and education specialist, says she and Moya go to businesses and schools to teach kids and adults the best way to interact safely with strange dogs. 

“Any dog could bite or attack. It depends on the situation, how territorial the dog is," Conner said.

New numbers show that dog bites are on the rise. In Mecklenburg County alone, there were 1,441 bites in 2015 and almost 200 more in 2016. Statewide, the number of insurance claims because of dog bites almost doubled over that same period. 

Starting with kids, what can you do to prevent a bite? 

"A lot of them love dogs (but) dogs don't always like kids," Conner warned. 

The most important thing she teaches them is how to meet a dog. First, ask the owner if it's okay to pet them. 

"Then, you have to ask the dog," Conner said. "The best thing is put out a fist and let them sniff you first. Stay standing up tall."

The first place you should pet? The chin, Conner said. 

But what if you don't actually want to meet a dog and it just happens? 

First thing's first. Always be aware of your surroundings. Conner says the worst thing you can do is run if you see a loose dog that you don't know, so stop moving.

"They have four legs, you have two legs, so unless you're an Olympic running, you're not going to outrun them. Stay still," Conner said. 

And if you can't avoid a confrontation? 

"Don't fight back, curl into a ball in the fetal position," Conner explained. "You don't want to stare at a dog or smile at a dog. When you smile, you're baring your teeth, so it looks like you're snarling at them."

And lastly, and just as surprising, a wagging tail doesn't always mean a happy dog. 

© 2017 WCNC.COM


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