Between four and five million people become dog bite victims each year. In 2012 alone, State Farm experienced 77 dog bite claims in New Jersey and paid out more than $4.7 million. The numbers would be greatly higher when considering the other major insurance companies.

Family pets were responsible for much of the 3,670 dog bite claims handled by State Farm last year. (State Farm)

"For the state of New Jersey, you actually had a slight increase from where the numbers were (in 2011)," said State Farm spokesman Dave Phillips.

Still, New Jersey ranked sixteenth among the states in 2011 and 2012. In 2010, New Jersey ranked 12th.

Nationwide, State Farm had 3,670 dog bite claims and paid more than $108 million as a result.

The numbers came out in advance of National Dog Bite Prevention Week (May 19-25). Phillips said it's important for everyone to realize that attacks aren't only a threat among certain breeds.

"Any dog can bite, and in many instances, it ends up being the family pet that inflicts the damage," Phillips said.

State Farm advises New Jerseyans to never leave a baby or small child alone with a dog, even if it's a family pet. According to the American Humane Association, unsupervised newborns are 370 times more likely than an adult to be killed by a dog.

The other main targets of dog attacks are the elderly and mail carriers. The United States Postal Service said 5,879 postal carriers were bitten or attacked by dogs in 2011.

Other tips from State Farm:

  • Never put your dog in a position where it feels threatened or teased.
  • Use a leash in public to ensure you are able to control your dog.
  • Regular veterinary visits are important. A sick or injured dog is more likely to bite.
  • Ask for permission before petting someone else's dog, and caution strangers to wait before approaching your dog, giving it time to become comfortable.

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