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This Halloween, beware of dog bites in Michigan

Dog bites are unfortunately pretty common here in Michigan. This is because dog owners sometimes fail to properly restrain and exert control over their pets. Often, children become victims of dog bites because they do not know they must be very cautious around strange dogs that may be on the loose or displaying aggression.

One way to protect children from dog bites is to keep them away from homes and yards with dogs; and when visiting a household with a dog, to ask the dog owner to keep the animal away from the children. However, this might be difficult to accomplish come Wednesday when children are knocking on doors trick-or-treating, possibly making territorial dogs uncomfortable.

There are a number of things parents can do to prevent Halloween dog bites.

Doggone Safe, a non-profit dog bite prevention and victim support organization, recently published a number of tips in order to help children enjoy a safe Halloween, free from scary and dangerous dogs.

The first, and possibly most important, tip is to skip trick-or-treating at homes that may have dogs. While it's not possible to know for sure which houses have dogs in them, hearing barks or seeing a dog tied up is a sure sign that it might be a good home to avoid.

Children should also be told not to approach any dogs, even those that they know well and that are usually friendly. This is because a dog may not recognize a child in his or her costume, and the dog may become aggressive if approached.

If a dog owner opens the door with a dog, it is best to wait until the owner puts the dog away. The child can tell the owner he or she does not like dogs, or the child can wait while the owner comes forward with the candy; it is best not to move toward the dog.

If dogs become loose or begin nipping at children, it is smart for them to stand still and pretend to be a tree. This way, the dog is more likely to calm down and leave. If the child runs around, the dog may become more excited.

While it is important to teach kids to be cautious and avoid dog bites, in the event of an animal attack, it is not the victim's fault. Most dog bites can be prevented when dog owners keep their dogs under control, and for this reason dog owners can be held liable in Michigan for dog bites.

Source: CBS, "Halloween Dog Bite Prevention Tips," Oct. 25, 2012

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