Everyone knows that some animals are dangerous (think sharks, alligators, jellyfish and bears). But the truth is these predators are pretty much isolated from most human contact. Unless you venture into their territory, there’s a very small likelihood you’ll be attacked. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with small, domestic animals. In fact, thousands of workers sustain on-the-job injuries from dogs and cats each year. According to one study from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were over 20,000 non-fatal injuries to workers caused by small domestic animals during the six-year period between 1992 and 1997.
Many Industries Represented
While by far the largest number of workers injured by small, domestic animals are those employed in the veterinary field, other workers are at risk as well. Nonfarm animal caretakers, such as groomers and employees of pet stores, account for a significant number of injuries, as do delivery drivers, meter readers and letter carriers. Healthcare workers, particularly those who work in residential care facilities or in clients’ homes, are also at risk. In fact, any worker whose job brings them into contact with small domestic animals can sustain an injury on the job.
The most common cause of small-animal related injuries to non-veterinary workers is dog bites, especially to the arms and hands. Interestingly, though, according to the BLS study, the largest number of veterinarians injured by small animals were bitten by cats. This may be because cat bites get infected very easily, which can quickly turn a small injury into a much more significant one.
Tips for Avoiding Animal-Related Injuries
Perhaps the single most important way to avoid getting injured by a small, domestic animal is to understand that any animal may attack. Even well-trained pets can become aggressive, especially if they perceive a threat to their physical safety, their territory or their human companions. And while certain dog breeds may seem more intimidating, no dog is inherently more or less dangerous than any other. So, stay alert and know the signs that an animal may be a threat. In dogs, this may include behaviors such as:
- Yawning, licking the lips, avoiding eye contact
- A rigid stance (even if the tail is wagging)
- Raised upper lip or bared teeth
- Raised fur on the back of the neck
Remember, too, that you should never try to pet a dog without allowing it to sniff you first. If it seems friendly, put the back of your hand (not your fingers!) to the dog’s snout and let it smell you. If it seems receptive, go ahead and give it a pet.
But what should you do if you do find yourself confronted by a potentially aggressive dog? Here is some advice from the CDC:
- Stop and stand quietly. DO NOT RUN AWAY!
- Do not make eye contact with the dog.
- Don’t make loud noises to try to scare the dog away. Instead, say “Go Home” or “Go Away” in a firm, deep voice.
- Turn to the side so you are not directly facing the dog
- Slowly raise your hands to either side of your neck with your elbows pulled in.
If, despite your precautions, you are attacked by a dog, put something (your purse, a backpack, a jacket) between yourself and the animal if you can. If the dog knocks you to the ground, curl up into a ball; place your arms over your head and neck (most of us will do this instinctively) and call for help. If the dog backs away, get up slowly and retreat to a safe place.
Unlike dogs, most cats who feel threatened will back away from the threat if they are left alone. Still, it’s wise to be aware of body language that indicates a cat may be readying itself to attack. These include a stiff-legged stance with the back of the body raised; ears pulled back and tipped slightly forward, constricted pupils and an unwavering stare. Remember, too, that cats have multiple weapons at their disposal unless they have been declawed. So keep your distance. You can make friends another day.
The Carmoon Group, Ltd. is a family-owned insurance brokerage headquartered in Hicksville, New York. Through our large network of insurance affiliates, we offer business insurance and risk management solutions to companies all across the United States. Please give us a call to schedule an appointment for your insurance review. Or if you prefer, reach out online and we will get back to you at a convenient time