Jordan Gribble / Houma Courier
Three local dog attacks made headlines this year:- Mia DeRouen, 4, of Houma was killed by her mother's pet pit bull in their Houma Highlands apartment in March.- Molly Mire, 41, of Chackbay, was bitten by a visitor's pit bull July 6. The two gashes on her arm required medical treatment.- Kathleen Shaffer, 54, of Dulac, was attacked by her pet pit bull Bubba at her home on Sunday. The injuries to her left arm, legs, throat and chest landed her in Terrebonne General Medical Center.All animals can be unpredictable, especially when scared or hungry, but there are ways to avoid or prevent an attack, local animal advocates said.'The best thing you can do is to avoid contact with strays or roaming animals,' said Lionel de la Houssaye Jr. a veterinarian in Thibodaux. 'It might be the sweetest dog in the world, but if you're not familiar with it, stay away from it.'If you do find yourself confronted by an unfamiliar dog, do not scream at or run from it, de la Houssaye said.'If the dog appears to develop a defensive or attack position or just looks at you with an aggressive facial expression and looks like it's going to snap, you should stop where you are,' he said. 'Does that mean you should run away from it? No. You need to slowly but surely back away from the animal.'If you are attacked, try to distract the dog long enough to make your escape, Terrebonne Parish Animal Shelter Manager Valerie Robinson said.'Find any object to put between you and the dog as you look for your strategy,' she said. 'Offer the dog the closest object to you so that it's attention is on biting the object and not you. If the dog is actively attacking you, strike its sensitive areas, such as its snout and groin and stomach area, until it releases. A dog's paws and eyes are sensitive, and if enough pressure is applied to the areas, a dog may release its hold.'If you get knocked to the ground and can't get up, Robinson says you should:- Get in the fetal position.- Tuck your head into your chest.- Protect your head with your hands.- Remain still and quiet.Pet owners should socialize and train their dogs to decrease the likelihood of an attack, de la Houssaye said.'The dogs that cause problems nowadays are a direct correlation to the way they're treated,' he said. 'A dog with a 20-pound chain around its neck is going to be upset. If it's treated like a piece of property that's meant to be the meanest dog on the block, it's going to be mean because it's been taught to do that.'A lot of times the dogs that are involved in attack situations are trained to be that way. It's not the dog's fault, it's the owner's fault,' he said.Spaying or neutering dogs can also decrease the possibility of aggression, Robinson said.