NU Online News Service, May 18, 2:24 p.m.EST

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Dog bite claims increased 16 percent in 2011 compared to 2010,and have grown close to 48 percent since 2003, according to figuresreleased by the insurance industry.

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On the eve of National Dog Bite Prevention Week, the InsuranceInformation Institute and State Farm Mutual Automobile InsuranceCo. released figures indicating that dog bites are costing theinsurance industry hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

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I.I.I. says that, in 2011, dog bite claims amounted to close to$479 million with a total of 16,292 claims filed.

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I.I.I. says the increase can be attributed to “increased medicalcosts as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awardsgiven to plaintiffs, which have risen well above the rate ofinflation in recent years.”

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According to Bloomington, Ill.-based State Farm, the companypaid more than $109 million in claims resulting from 3,800 dog biteclaims in 2011.

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California was number one on State Farm's list for dog biteclaims and money paid out, with 527 claims for an estimated $20million. Illinois was second with 309 claims and $10 million.

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In conjunction with National Dog Bite Prevention Week, whichruns May 20-26, the U.S. Postal Service released its listof the top 25 dog-attack city rankings.

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Los Angeles was number one with 83 attacks, followed by SanDiego with 68 and Houston with 47.

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The Postal Service says that, nationwide, there were more than5,577 postal workers attacked in 1,400 cities. The attacks onworkers cost the Postal Service close to $1.2 million lastyear.

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According to the center for Disease Control and Prevention,there are more than 4.7 million people bittenby a dog each year and 800,000 seek medical attention for theirbites. Of those bitten, more than half are children.

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As part of a campaign, the participants in National Dog BitePrevention Week have issued a series of tips to reduce therisk of dog bites.

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Among the steps:

  • Socialize your dog so it know how to act with other people andanimals.
  • Discouraging children from disturbing a dog that is eating orsleeping.
  • Avoid exposing your dog to new situations in which you areunsure of its response.
  • Never approach a strange dog and always avoid eye contact witha dog that appears threatening.

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