333 dog bites reported in Cleveland so far: How should you protect yourself?

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - Deep scars cover Susan Prickly's left arm. They're constant reminders of the day a dog attacked her.

"It'll never be the same. I'll never have full use. So, I've accepted it and I'll just move on," she said.

A dog she knew well, lunged at her, latched onto her arm and wouldn't let go.

"I even tried biting her, trying to get her off me. I even started crying, I was like, what, why?" she said.

It felt like an eternity, but Prickly finally got away.

The dog destroyed the tendons in her hand and ripped out chunks of flesh on her forearm.

Four surgeries and nearly two years later, looking back on the attack, Prickly still said she never saw it coming.

"It's really hard to judge or to tell, because it can happen to anybody," she said.

Canine University of Ohio owner Amy Gutmann has been training dogs for 25 years.

"The question is, what are you going to do if this dog is starting to physically attack you or your dog? And that is a big topic these days," she said.

Gutmann said aggressive dogs may:

  • raise the hair on the back of their neck
  • show their teeth
  • pull their face and ears back
  • crouch down low

According to reports from Cleveland Animal Control, in 2017 there were 921 dog bite reports, which includes bites to humans and to animals.

So far this year, there have been 333 bite reports in the city.

Cleveland 19 News wanted to know if a stun gun would protect people from a dangerous dog.

Gutmann said she doesn't think it's a good idea. The dog can rip the stun gun out of someone's hand and attack.

"I feel like it's a pretty detrimental tool," she said.

Gutmann said electric shocks can seriously hurt dogs. Pets with preexisting health conditions can be killed. If there's no proof the dog was a threat, you could be in big trouble.

"If there's serious harm to the dog it could be a felony. It goes under Goddard Law, especially if that dog was coming at you in a non-aggressive way. It could be a fifth felony under Goddard Law," Gutmann said.

She said there are other ways to protect yourself. Pepper spray is an option, but it can backfire on you.

Instead, Gutmann recommends carrying a pet safe citronella spray.

"Nine out of 10 dogs will probably turn around and go the other way," she said.

If you're caught empty-handed, Gutmann said scream, shout and stomp your feet. You can also use your purse or shoe to hit the dog.

"Something that's just a quick, immediate reaction to scare this dog. If you've got a stick, you can throw it," she said.

Prickly calls her attack a freak accident that could have ended even worse. The bites scarred her, but never scared her from being around other dogs.

"I am a little more cautious, but I can't say much," she said.

Gutmann said, if a dog is attacking you and your dog, drop your dog's leash and try to let your dog escape on its own.

If your dog gets into a fight with another dog, never reach in to break it up because you can get hurt.

Instead, try throwing things at the dogs or spray water on them if possible.

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