Illinois dog owners may want to take extra precautions with their beloved pets.
Data shows Illinois was among the top three states for dog bite claims for 2013.
According to State Farm statistics, Illinois had the second highest number of dog bite claims last year, with 309 claims costing a total of $8.9 million.
The only other state with more claims than Illinois was California, which had 449 claims, costing a total of $14.7 million.
In 2013, State Farm paid $104 million as a result of 3,700 dog bite claims across the nation, the company reported. Over the past five years, the insurer says it has paid $510 million for claims resulting from accidents involving a dog.
According to Victoria Stilwell, author and star of Animal Planet’s “It’s Me or the Dog,” the key to preventing such dog accidents is education about “responsible pet ownership and how to interact properly with any dog.”
Stilwell says pet owners should never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet, as children are often bitten by a dog in their own household.
According to a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million americans are bitten by dogs each year, half of which are children. They also note the rate of dog bite-related injuries is highest for children between the ages of 5 and 9.
The American Humane Association reports that 66 percent of bites among children occur to the head and neck.
The U.S. Postal Service claims 5,581 postal employees were attacked last year.
“There’s a myth we often hear at the Postal Service,” said Postal Service Manager of Safety Linda DeCarlo. “Don’t worry — my dog won’t bite. Dog attacks are a nationwide issue and not just a postal problem. Any dog can bite and all attacks are preventable through responsible pet ownership.”
According to 2013 dog attack rankings by city from the Postal Service, Chicago ranked at no. 5, with 47 dog attacks for the year. The city with the most dog attacks was Houston, Texas, which had 63 attacks last year.
Stilwell warns that any dog can bite, and advises people to always ask permission before touching or playing with a dog.
“The most effective way to prevent dog bites is not to ban certain breeds of dog, but to raise awareness of canine behavior through education, as well as encouraging responsible dog ownership,” she said.
For more safety tips to prevent dog bites click here.