Bite Investigation

The Kent County Animal Shelter investigates all reports of animal bites in Kent County as part of community rabies control. You may report a bite directly by calling the Animal Shelter any time day or night at (616) 632-7304 or fill out the Report A Bite Form can be submitted via email.

Report A Bite Form

Additionally, law enforcement officers called to the scene of animal bite incidents, or medical personnel who may treat an animal bite victim are required by law to report bites to the Kent County Animal Shelter.

Animal Control Officers investigating an animal bite will determine the circumstances surrounding the bite, and what action should be taken regarding the biting animal. Biting animals are generally quarantined in their home or at the Kent County Animal Shelter kennels for a minimum of 10 days after they have bitten someone. Small children are the most frequent victims of animal bites and parents and pet owners should exercise caution when allowing a small child to interact with a larger animal, even one that is "tame" or "friendly."

Bite Prevention

Fact Sheets & Statistical Information


Special Programs for Teachers

Dog owners have a responsibility to their community to make sure that their dog does not become a threat or nuisance to others. This may be avoided by following these simple tips:

  • Spay or neuter your dog. This prevents unwanted litters, reduces your dog's aggression, need to roam, territoriality, and behavioral problems. Pets that are neutered live longer, healthier lives and are less likely to bite.
  • Keep your dog in good health. This includes providing a balanced diet, proper exercise, adequate grooming and regular visits to the veterinarian for vaccinations and check-ups.
  • Never allow your dog to run free in the neighborhood. Always have your dog confined or on a leash.
  • Always have a collar and an identification tag on your dog, including a current license. Thousands of pets are put to sleep every year because they lack a form of identification.
  • Correct aggressive or inappropriate behaviors right away. Train your dog to behave properly.
  • Know and obey the laws of your city and county concerning pet ownership, including leash and licensing laws.
  • Socialize your dog, not only with people but also with other dogs and cats. Socialized pets are much less likely to bite and be aggressive toward other animals and people.

Dog Bite Prevention Starts with You

In Kent County, more than 1,000 dog bites are reported and investigated every year. In 1998, there were 1168 dog bite investigations in Kent County. Over 40% of dog bite victims locally are age 14 and under, mirroring national trends. In addition, Animal Shelter records show that nearly 70% of bites in Kent County last year were from dogs that had not been neutered.

Spay or Neuter Your Dog

  • Sterilization reduces your dog's urge to roam and fight with other dogs, making safe confinement easier.
  • Spayed and neutered dogs are generally less territorial and less aggressive.

Socialize Your Dog

  • Carefully introduce your dog to different types of people and situations so your dog learns to be less nervous and frightened under different circumstances and around different people.

Train Your Dog

  • Obedience classes are an excellent way to train dogs, and a great way for dog owners to learn proper training techniques.
  • Training your dog is a family matter. Every member of your household should learn the proper training techniques, use proper commands, and participate in the dog's education.

Teach Your Dog Appropriate Behavior

  • Refrain from playing aggressive games with your dog such as wrestling, tug of war, or "sicking" your dog on another person.
  • Set limits for your dog's behavior. If your dog exhibits aggressive behavior toward any person, particularly children, seek professional help from your veterinarian, animal behaviorist, or qualified dog trainer.
  • Dangerous or aggressive behavior toward other animals may lead to dangerous behavior with people, and is also a reason to seek professional help.

Be a Responsible Owner

  • License your dog and provide regular veterinary care, including rabies vaccination and boosters.
  • For the safety of your dog and the safety of others, don't let your dog roam.

If You Encounter a Dog

  • If a dog approaches you, remain calm, stand with your hands by your sides and allow the dog to sniff you.
  • Do not try to pet a dog if it is eating, drinking, or nursing a litter.
  • Always ask the owner's permission before petting a strange dog. If the owner gives you permission to pet the dog, raise your hand slowly with fingers curled under and allow the dog to sniff your hand before you touch it. Do not try to pet dogs whose owners are not present or who are roaming freely.
  • If a dog appears aggressive, back away slowly and calmly. Do not try to stare a dog down, and do not turn and run as a dog's natural instinct is to chase.
  • If you are attacked, curl into a ball on the ground and cover your head.

Strategies to Preventing Dog Bites

Dogs are wonderful pets that provide companionship, love and loyalty to many people. Many dogs will never bite someone but even the sweetest, most gentle dog can bite if provoked. Every dog has the potential to bite and any breed can be dangerous. The majority of dog bites occur in a familiar place by a dog owned by a family member or a friend. Additionally, in Kent County, children represent 50% of dog bite cases. Dog bites are second only to baseball/softball injuries as the most common reason for childhood emergency room visits. Due to these daunting facts, it is crucial that every dog owner be responsible. This includes learning the basics about dog behavior, safety and care and also understanding and obeying the laws pertaining to dog ownership.

Which dogs bite?

ANY dog has the ability to bite. Although some breeds commonly are labeled as aggressive, it's important to remember that any dog can bite. In Kent County, some of the most common biting dogs include those labeled as "family dogs" - labs, collies, and retrievers. It's also important to remember that a dog of any age or size may be unsafe-including puppies. Consequently, there is no way to know if a dog will be a biter just by knowing the breed, size or age. Take caution with ANY dog and NEVER leave children alone or unattended with a dog.

Dogs May Bite When

  • They are protecting their territory, family, food, toys, bed, puppies or themselves.
  • They don't know you.
  • They feel threatened or afraid.
  • They are sick, injured or in pain.
  • They are irritated, uncomfortable or being teased.
  • They are really excited or have a desire to chase.
  • They are bred and/or trained to be aggressive.

Ways to Avoid Being Bitten

  • Always ask permission to pet a dog and let the dog sniff your hand before petting it.
  • Never approach a strange dog or a dog that is tied up, fenced in or in a house unless the owner is there.
  • Never disturb a dog that is eating, sleeping, or taking care of puppies.
  • Do not touch an injured animal. Consult your veterinarian or call the shelter for advice.
  • Do not stare into a dog's eyes.
  • Never turn your back on a dog.
  • Do not jump around, wave your arms, scream, or run by a dog. These actions will excite the dog and stimulate it to chase you and/or act aggressively.
  • Do not put your face near a dog's mouth when you are playing or when you do not know the dog.
  • Always be careful around animals and treat them with respect.

If You are Threatened by a Dog

  • Stand very still and remain calm. Never scream or run.
  • Do not turn your back on the dog.
  • Always know where the dog is without staring directly in its eyes.
  • If you say anything to the dog, speak calmly and firmly.
  • If the dog approaches to sniff you, let it. Most of the time the dog will leave you alone when it realizes that you are not a threat.
  • Stay still until the dog leaves. When it does, back away slowly.
  • If a dog does attack, keep something between you and the dog. "Feed" it your jacket, purse, bike, or anything that will distract it and prevent it from biting you.
  • If a dog knocks you down, curl into a ball with your arms over your face, head and neck. Try not to scream or move.