Just a few days after our own dog-bite incident, which I wroteabout in a previous blog, I saw this article on our Web site. Sureenough, the number of dog bites, and court cases, is rising. Thisisn't a surprise after my experiences in the past few months withsome dog owners, who let their dogs run around off-leash and don'twant to take responsibility for their actions.

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In fact, the article, dated Sept. 14, stated that juryawards and medical costs for dog bites are climbing. Homeownersinsurance liability claims for dog bite injuries are up a whopping28 percent since 2003, according to the Insurance InformationInstitute.

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Claims for canine bites are also “biting into” homeownersinsurance costs (sorry about the pun, couldn't resist). Dog bitesaccount for one-third of all homeowners' insurance liability costs.This totaled $387.20 million in 2008—up a whopping 8.7 percent over2007!

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The organization said the average cost of dog bite claims was$24,461 in 2008 (the most recent figures available). While this wasdown slightly from $24,511 in 2007, the number of claims increased8.89 percent to 15,823 in 2008 from 14,531 in 2007.

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The Institute noted that more than 4.5 million people in theU.S. are bitten by dogs annually, and nearly 900,000 of those—halfof them children—require medical care. This was according tofigures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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With more than 50 percent of bites occurring on the dog owner'sproperty, the issue is a major source of concern for insurers, theInstitute noted.

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The I.I.I. mentioned that in some states, the owner is not heldliable for the first bite the dog inflicts. Once an animal hasdemonstrated vicious behavior, however, such as biting or otherwisedisplaying a "vicious propensity," the owner can be heldliable.

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These trends are not surprising as more people are adoptingdogs. As I said before, this is a very good thing, but this is thedown-side. And there is always a down-side.

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As I witnessed recently in the incident with my dog, the otherdog's owner did not have her dog leashed and did not seem to carethat my dog was injured.

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Sadly, this lack of understanding, compassion and common senseis a bad reflection on dog owners overall, not to mention potentialharm to their dogs, other dogs and people.

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