Summer’s approach means greater risk of dog bites


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Louisville ranks fourth in the nation in dog attacks on letter carriers, with 40, according to recently released statistics from the United States Postal Service. Nationally, approximately 4.7 million Americans are bitten by dogs each year. And as summer approaches, both children and adults spend more time outdoors, increasing their risk for dog bites.

    That’s why Dr. Bradon J. Wilhelmi, the Leonard J. Weiner Professor and Chief, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the University of Louisville Department of Surgery, is joining with his colleagues nationwide to raise awareness of dog bite prevention and treatment during National Dog Bite Prevention Week through May 21.

    “Reconstructive surgeons see firsthand how devastating these attacks are,” Wilhelmi said. “With training, appropriate dog control and education, however, the suffering caused by dog bites can be prevented.”

    Of the 4.7 million Americans attacked by dogs each year, about 600,000 are children. Nationally, nearly 33,000 reconstructive procedures due to dog bites were performed in 2010, an increase of eight percent from 2009.

    “Dog bite attacks can lead to severe lacerations, infections and permanent scarring,” Wilhelmi said. “If bitten, you should get to a trauma center immediately so that the wound can be cleaned and assessed. It is imperative that proper medical care is provided as soon as possible after an attack.”

    To prevent attacks, owners should train their dogs and socialize them to a variety of people. Parents should teach children to always ask the dog owner before petting a dog and to avoid strays. People should never bother a dog if it is sleeping, eating or caring for puppies. If attacked, you should remain calm, curl into a ball and protect your face with your arms and legs.

    In the USPS survey, Houston has the most dog attacks on letter carriers, with 62 in 2010. Columbus, Ohio, and San Diego, Calif., are second with 45 each, and Los Angeles is third with 44. Louisville’s 40 attacks place it fourth in the rankings while San Antonio, Texas, and St. Louis, Mo., share fifth place with 39 each.

    National Dog Bite Prevention Week is sponsored by the USPS, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Insurance Information Institute. For more information, go to

    Jill Scoggins is Director of Communications at UofL's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. She has been at UofL since 2010.