Michigan sees increase in dog bite claims in 2016, State Farm says

Michigan saw a 35 percent increase in dog bite claims between 2015 and 2016, according to State Farm, giving it the sixth most bite claims of any state.

In 2016, State Farm handled 160 dog bite claims in Michigan. According to the insurance company, over $4 million was paid as a result. The average dog bite claim in the state costs about $26,500.

Nationwide, over $121 million was paid by State Farm for 3,660 dog bite claims in 2016, a 15 percent increase.

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The United States Postal Service also saw an increase in dog bites, with 200 more mail carriers being bitten in 2016 than in 2015. There were 6,755 dog bite incidents.

Detroit ranked sixth on the USPS list of most dog bite incidents, with 48 dog bites in 2016. It was the only Michigan city that ranked in the 30 cities on the list.

Dog bites may be the result of a startled animal, not a vicious one, according to State Farm. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half of children 14 and younger have been bitten by a dog.

Dog trainer Victoria Stilwell, who works with State Farm on educating people about responsible dog ownership and understanding dog body language, offered some tips for avoiding dog bites.

She said to learn dog body language, such as what actions like yawning mean. Yawning may be a sign of stress, Stilwell said.

She also suggests giving dogs space because they may feel threatened when a strange person touches them.

Also, she said to raise and treat dogs humanely. Dogs raised this way are more confident and less likely to bite than animals that have been intimidated or trained with punitive methods.