State Farm paid more than $109 million in 2011 as a result of nearly 3,800 dog bite claims nationwide. In New Jersey, State Farm had 68 dog bite claims last year, resulting in over $2 million in payments for injury and damage.

New Jersey's claims ranked 16th in a state-by-state ranking for 2011. The Garden State's numbers improved from 2010 with a 29% drop. In 2010, New Jersey ranked 12th.

Next week is Dog Bite Prevention Week. Studies have found that the number one dog-bite prevention measure is through education. According to the American Human Association, those who understand how to act around dogs, how to play with dogs, when to leave them alone, and how to properly meet a dog are much less likely to be bitten.

"Any dog has the potential to bite someone if provoked," said State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips. "Dogs are territorial and protective by nature, and even the most tame dog could have the potential to bite."

Phillips continued, "Even if it's a family pet, the dog is still an animal."

He said dogs, even pets, can react harmfully when put into a new environment or when introduced to a family member like a newborn.

A State Farm news release said children and senior citizens are frequent victims of dog bites; more than half of dog bite victims are children.

Preventing dog bite injury

  • Never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog.
  • Be on the lookout for potentially dangerous situations.
  • Start teaching young children to be careful around pets.
  • Children must not be taught to approach strange dogs.
  • Always ask permission from a dog's owner before petting any dog.

Phillips advised New Jersey residents to look at their insurance policies and make sure they have coverage for dog bites.