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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Dog Bites and Fatalities: A Primer

Learning About Dog Bites


The American Humane Association and the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  estimate, 4.7 million people in the United States (nearly 2% of the population) are bitten by a dog each year, with about 800,000 of those bites (one of every 6) requiring medical attention.

(Sacks JJ, Kresnow M, Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;2:52-4.)

Dog bites send nearly 334,000 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (914 per day).

(National Center for Health Statistics National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey for 1992-1994.) 

An American has a one in 50 chance of being bitten by a dog each year.

(CDC.)

The chances that the victim of a fatal dog attack will be a burglar are one in 177; the odds that it will be a child are 7 out of 10. However, fatalities are highly unusual. For every fatal dog bite in the United States, there are 230,000 bites that are not treated by a physician.

(Centers for Disease Control, "Dog-Bite-Related Fatalities -- United States, 1995-1996," MMWR 46(21):463-467, 1997.)

The attention given to the homicides has put the spotlight on pit bulls and Rottweilers. There is a very good reason for focusing on these two breeds: in recent years, they have usually been the number one and number two canine killers of humans.

(Sacks JJ, Sinclair L, Gilchrist J, Golab GC, Lockwood R. Breeds of Dogs Involved in Fatal Human Attacks in the United States Between 1979 and 1998. JAVMA 2000;217:836-840.)

("Dog Bite Related Fatalities," Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 30, 1997, Vol. 46, No. 21, pp. 463 et. seq.)

Furthermore, a recent study by hospital physicians also has established that attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs.

 (Bini, John K. MD; Cohn, Stephen M. MD; Acosta, Shirley M. RN, BSN; McFarland, Marilyn J. RN, MS; Muir, Mark T. MD; Michalek, Joel E. PhD. Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs. Annals of Surgery: April 2011 - Volume 253 - Issue 4 - p 791–797)



The dog bite epidemic appears to involve all dogs and all dog owners. While pit bulls and Rottweilers inflict a disproportionate number of serious and even fatal injuries, the dog bite epidemic involves many different breeds, and results from many different causes. A clear distinction therefore needs to be made between canine homicides (i.e., incidents in which dogs kill people) and the dog bite epidemic.

  • Any dog, treated harshly or trained to attack, may bite a person. Any dog can be turned into a dangerous dog. The owner most often is responsible -- not the breed, and not the dog. 

  • An irresponsible owner or dog handler might create a situation that places another person in danger by a dog, without the dog itself being dangerous, as in the case of a Pomeranian that killed an infant. (October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, Los Angeles Times) 

  • Any individual dog may be a good, loving pet, even though its breed is considered to be likely to bite. A responsible owner can win the love and respect of a dog, no matter its breed. One cannot look at an individual dog, recognize its breed, and then state whether or not it is going to attack. 





  •  But, You Must Consider This Information Relating to Pit Bulls and Rottweilers


    2011 Statistics


    • 31 U.S. fatal dog attacks occurred in 2011. Despite being regulated in Military Housing areas and over 650 U.S. cities, pit bulls led these attacks accounting for 71% (22). Pit bulls make up less than 5% of the total U.S. dog population.

    2011 data from Animal People

    (More Adoptions Will Not End Shelter Killing of Pit Bulls, by Merritt Clifton, Animal People, October 2011) scales back the total population of pit bulls from 5%

    (Decade of Adoption Focus Fails to Reduce Shelter Killing, by Merritt Clifton, Animal People, July/August 2009) to less than 5%, specifically to 3.3% of the total U.S. dog population.

    • Notably in 2011, adult victims of fatal pit bull attacks more than doubled the number of child victims. Of the 22 total pit bull victims, 68% (15) fell between the ages of 32 to 76, and 32% (7) were ages 5 years and younger.

    • The year 2011 also marks an increase in pet pit bulls killing their owners. Of the 8 total instances this year in which a family dog inflicted fatal injury to its primary caretaker, the dog's owner, 88% (7) involved pet pit bulls.

    • Together, pit bulls (22) and rottweilers (4), the number two lethal dog breed, accounted for 84% of all fatal attacks in 2011. In the 7-year period from 2005 to 2011, this same combination accounted for 74% (157) of the total recorded deaths (213).

    • The breakdown between pit bulls and rottweilers is substantial over this 7-year period. From 2005 to 2011, pit bulls killed 128 Americans, about one citizen every 20 days, versus rottweilers, which killed 29; about one citizen every 88 days.

    • Annual data from 2011 shows that 58% (18) of the attacks occurred to adults (21 years and older) and 42% (13) occurred to children (11 years and younger). Of the children, 62% (8) occurred to ages 1 and younger.

    • 2011 data also shows that 39% (12) of the fatal incidents involved more than one dog; 26% (8) involved breeding on the dog owner's property either actively or in the recent past, and 6% (2) involved tethered dogs, down from 9% in 2010 and 19% in 2009.

    • Dog ownership information for 2011 shows that family dogs comprised 65% (20) of the attacks that resulted in death; 74% (23) of all incidents occurred on the dog owner's property and 29% (9) resulted in criminal charges, up from 15% in 2010.

    • The states of California and Texas led fatalities in 2011, each with 4 deaths; pit bulls and their mixes contributed to 88% (7) of the 8 deaths. North Carolina, New Mexico, South Carolina and Virginia each incurred 2 deaths.

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