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Study on dog bites involving children makes waves

Fans of "pitties" or pit bulls aren't going to like the newest information in a joint Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital study.

Researchers wanted to see what the actual data has to say about which dogs are generally the most likely to cause serious injuries to children -- particularly to their faces. Their interest was sparked by the statistics provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which indicates that 4.7 million people -- mostly children -- are bitten by dogs annually.

Here's what researchers found when they looked at the last 15 years worth of data on bites involving children:

  • Whether the dog is a pit bull, a pit bull mix, or simply an unidentified breed that has a large, square head, it is more likely to pose a serious danger to children.
  • Bites involving children most often come from the family pet rather than a stray dog or a stranger's dog.
  • Common injuries suffered by children from dog bites include eye damage, jaw fractures and other facial fractures.
  • Often, parents are lulled into a false sense of security with the family pet, and they forget that their dog (no matter how lovable) is still naturally territorial.

The reason that pit bulls and other square-headed dogs pose such a danger is directly related to the shape of their heads. Their larger mouths can grip onto a bigger portion of a child's body. Their bite force is also stronger than dogs with smaller, narrow jaws.

Parents are urged to keep young children away from dogs -- especially when the dog is eating or chewing on a toy. Physical barriers (like baby gates) are safe ways of protecting both the dog and the child from an incident.

Just recently, a 10-month old child in Berea was tragically injured by a boxer-Rhodesian Ridgeback (another dog with a square jawline) after the infant's babysitter allowed the child to crawl too close to the dog while the dog was chewing on a bone. When the infant tried to take the bone, the dog attacked.

If your child is injured in a dog attack, don't hesitate to seek legal counsel about the situation. You need to know what options you have to help your child's recovery.

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