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Much has been said about how anxiety has been at an all time high for many this past year due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, and how the changes they brought impacted our lives. However, less talked about is the uneasiness experienced by some of our pets. Because when people are stressed out at home, dogs can act out by barking, destroying, and even biting.
About 63 million U.S. households own dogs, according to the American Pet Products Association’s 2019-2020 Pet Owners Survey. And the American Veterinary Medical Association has said there are nearly 77 million dogs living in U.S. households.
A recent report recently released by State Farm reportedly showed disturbing new statistics on a dramatic increase in dog bite claims in 2020 — especially in California. “Just alone in 2020, California was the number one dog biting stat through State Farm. We have over 400 bites and $26 million worth of claims paid out,” Kristin Francy, a San Diego State Farm agent, told CBS 8.
According to the insurance company, that statistic was more than 3,100 bites and more than $157 million in pay outs nationwide. The highest number of bites was recorded at the start of the lockdowns in Mar. Liability claims related to dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost homeowners insurers over $853 million in 2020.
However, there is a silver lining in this. Though claims shot up at the onset of the pandemic, the number of dog bite claims nationwide fell in 2020 to 16,991 from 17,802 in 2019 — a 4.6% decrease, according to data cited by the Insurance Information Institute. In California, there were 2,396 dog bite claims in 2019, meaning the overall numbers decreased in 2020. The average cost per dog bite claim in 2020 was $50,245. In California specifically, the cost was $64,622.
In addition to dogs sharing the anxiety felt by their owners, many people adopted dogs during the pandemic. And now with humans going back to work, school and other activities, pets may continue experiencing anxiety. “Slowly wean yourself away, don’t just be gone one day after being home 24/7 for a year,” recommended Francy.
Not to mention that because dog parks were closed during most of the lockdown, puppies were not able to develop social skills. “A lot of times, a dog bites the other dog. The owners try to get involved to help the situation, then they end up getting bit themselves in the interim,” said Francy.
While an overwhelming majority of interactions with dogs don’t result in injury, most dog bites could be prevented by practicing responsible pet ownership. The San Diego Humane Society released a chart on how to prevent getting bit by a dog. Some of the tips include: when meeting a new dog, watch, ask, invite then touch. Also, don’t pet a dog that is sleeping, tied up, scared, behind something, eating, or chewing a toy.
According to State Farm’s report, the rate of dog bite injuries is the highest for children between 5 to 9-years-old. Children should be carefully monitored around dogs. Many dog bites to children occur from dogs considered otherwise friendly.