SALEM, Ore. -

Each year, almost 5 million people are bitten or attacked by dogs, State Farm reported Monday.  Dog bites are a serious public health problem that can cause both physical and emotional damage to victims and considerable cost to communities.

According to a new report released by State Farm during Dog Bite Prevention Week, dog bites are on a significant rise in Oregon, as the state ranked No. 15 for the most dog bite claims. The insurer handled 77 dog-bite claims in Oregon last year, up from 62 in 2011.

In addition to the number of claims, the cost associated with treating these injuries are on the rise, as well. The company said it spent $1.2 million helping Oregon customers recover from dog bites. That is nearly double what was paid in 2008.

“A dog’s tendency to bite depends on factors like heredity, obedience training, socialization and health,"said Brad Hilliard, State Farm spokesman in Salem. “There are good dogs and bad dogs within every breed, just as there can be responsible and irresponsible owners of each breed.”

As a result, he said, "we do not track the type of breed for each claim."

Under the right circumstances, any dog may bite. That’s why State Farm does not refuse insurance based on the breed of dog a customer owns. Instead, the insurer encourages responsible behavior and caution around dogs, including family pets.

Hilliard said there are a number of factors that contribute to the rise in expenses paid -- additional claims, medical treatments and severity of the injuries are just a few.

"The important point to note is that dog attacks take a physical and emotional toll on the victims," he said. "The injuries are preventable when appropriate steps are taken to keep everyone safe."

  • NEVER leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it is a family pet. Children are often bitten by a dog in their own household.
  • Make sure your pet is socialized as a young puppy so it feels at ease around people and other animals.
  • Never put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Walk and exercise your dog regularly to keep it healthy and provide mental stimulation.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary visits are essential to regulating the health of your dog. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Be alert. If someone approaches you and your dog while out on a walk, caution them to wait before petting the dog, giving your pet time to be comfortable with the stranger

For more information about dog bite prevention, visit the State Farm Learning Center.