SOMA Health Department reports an increase in dog bite cases

Maplewood and South Orange are seeing an increase in dog bite cases.

The Health Department shared by the two towns receives reports from local hospitals treating animal bite injuries and/or from the local police department. There were 36 reports of dog bites in 2023. So far this year, eight dog bites have been reported.

In the U.S., more than 800,000 people need medical treatment for dog bites each year. More than half of dog bite victims are children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which said that young children especially can have serious injuries from dog bites.

It is important to remember that any dog can bite, even trusted pets, according to the Health Department, which said that dogs can bite when they are scared, sick, eating, playing, or protecting their food, toys, their family or territory.

The following are some general tips on how to interact with dogs in public:

1. Don’t approach an unfamiliar dog, even if it seems friendly

2. Always ask permission to approach and pet someone’s dog.

3. Teach children how to interact with dogs: a. to approach a dog carefully; be gentle in interactions and physical contact with a dog; recognize warning signs that a dog might be ready to bite.

4. Supervise young kids around dogs, even trusted pets.

The Health Department is asking all residents to be responsible pet owners and follow the following rules:

1. Keep your dog on a 6-foot leash in public. Do not let dogs run in open public spaces or on public parks and facilities; dogs are prohibited from running at large in public spaces because it increases the risk of injury to pedestrians, and attacks are usually unprovoked. No one knows for certain how their dog will behave in public, so keep your dog close to you and leashed.

2. Train and socialize your dog to know how to behave in public settings.

3. License your pet (both dogs and cats) with the township annually. All licensed pets have been vetted to ensure their rabies vaccine is up to date.

4. If you know your dog can become agitated at public outdoor events – please leave your dog at home. Loud music, crowded spaces, heavy foot traffic, and too much activity can make a dog unnecessarily anxious and guarded, which may result in the dog biting someone by accident.

If you are bitten by a dog, please follow these instructions:

1. Gather as much information as you can about the dog and the dog owner. In 1 out of 4 cases this year, there was no information to find the dog owner, or to find out if the dog was vaccinated for rabies, resulting in costly treatments, hospital care and doctor’s visits.

2. Wash and clean the wound immediately. Seek medical care if the wound site begins to worsen.

3. Take pictures of any injuries and damages to clothing.

4. Report any loose dogs to the police department who can contact animal

5. File an animal bite report at the police department or call the health department during regular business hours (973) 762-8120.