Insurers and new laws deal with California dogs bites

Frank S. Clowney III

Dogs bite Californians more than residents of any other state, judging from the most recent year of statistics available from the insurance company State Farm. The Golden State doesn’t even have stiff competition.

This year, as in several years in the recent past, the state has instituted a new statute in hopes of reducing at least one of the factors associated with dog attacks.

A serious problem to keep in perspective

State Farm reported paying out 3,280 dog bite claims in 2018 across the United States. Californians accounted for 409 of those claims and the nearest competition was Illinois, with only 288. The company paid out $123 million for U.S. bites and injuries involving dogs.

These numbers can seem large, particularly keeping in mind the very severe injuries dog bites sometimes inflict, occasionally leading to permanent disfigurement and even death. Over 3,000 dog bites reported to just one company suggests a lot of pain and suffering.

However, even with about 90 million dogs in the United States the nation annually sees only about 900,000 dog bites that require any medical attention. Because biting is something all dogs are very capable of doing, it seems safe to say that American dogs are generally very good dogs.

Shelter dog adopters now informed of bite history

A new law went into effect during the first week of October 2019. It requires animal shelters and rescues to give the animal’s full bite report to anyone adopting a dog. This applies only to bites that break the skin, meaning not every nip must be documented. The adopter must sign to acknowledge getting the report.

Although the bill received unanimous support in the legislature and the governor’s signature, shelters expressed concern that they’re often unable to confidently provide adopters with an accurate and complete history. Their dogs, after all, are rescued from often chaotic and mysterious circumstances.