Illinois Ranks Near the Top in Dog Bite Claims


By Evie Allen
By Randy Livingston

WSIL -- Insurance data from State Farm ranks Illinois as the second worst state for dog bite claims.

The finding comes just a week after Harrisburg warned dog owners to keep their animals in check, following a spike in attacks.

Animal Control officers say there are a number of reasons a bite happens. Dogs in heat, protecting their puppies, or attacking strangers in their territory, just to name a few. It's not always the dog's fault. But owners could be liable no matter what.

Jackson County Animal Control stays busy dealing with dog bites this time of year.

"It's pretty simple. More people are moving around. You have people that are jogging, you have people that are bicycling," says officer Lloyd Nelson.

Nelson says he receives anywhere from five to ten calls a month when it is warm.

"Bites are traumatic for the individual that was bitten but they are also traumatic for the pet owner. In terms of worry about your dog and in terms of financial problems," he says.

Being found liable for a dog attack can cost you. It's covered by most home-owners insurance. In 2013 State Farm payed more than $104 million for dog bite claims.

"Paying out this much money shows that homeowners are having training issues with their dog," states agent Bill Ecker.

While some blame the breed. State Farm Agent Bill Ecker believes it's the owners responsibility.

He says State Farm doesn't discriminate against breed. But they do ask if a dog has bitten before.

"If that animal has bitten anybody before, then we're going to notify in underwriting and likely exclude the dog," explains Ecker.

Nelson says each situation is different and not all bites are vicious. If you're being attacked, you should never run or scream.

"The old phrase used to be, especially for children, is act like a tree. Put your hands up by your chest and stand still," explains Nelson.

He adds, don't be overly friendly with a dog you don't know. And service workers shoud bring a treat to animals they see regularly.

"Get to know the dogs name because you're going to be coming back to that place everyday or every week or every what-ever."

Animal Control encourages people to spay or neuter pets. Nelson says fixed animals are less likely to bite.

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