Comprehensive dog bite statistics; % of children or elderly bitten, breeds most likely to bite and a startling statistical conclusion at the end of this in-depth research!
DOG BITE STATISTICS
by Ms. Jade, TheDogPress Legislative Reporter
From 1955 through 2009: Rising rate of dog bites, dog bite fatalities, number and ages of children bitten, and comparison rates of unprovoked dog bite attacks.
How many times have we heard someone in the media making inflammatory statements about dog bite statistics without ever disclosing their source? Researching this subject on the Internet has uncovered some enlightening information.
According to CBS News, the Early Show (2002) “About 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year. One million of those need medical attention. About 750,000 children are bitten by dogs each year; in most cases, these bites are from “familiar dogs” – not strays. Approximately 12 people die each year from dog bites.” When I tried to cross-reference these statistics I encountered a problem that was to become typical. The “4.7 million” appears to come from a JAVMA article evaluating data from 1994, almost six years earlier!
Sourcing any given statistic on dog bites is surprisingly difficult. The motivation of the providing source must be considered as well as the fact that many sources derive their data from news reports instead of county health records. Only about half of the dog bites reported as “pit bulls” actually are, as many mixed breed dogs are called “pit bulls”. Also, many studies quoted each other’s data as a premise for their own.
“Fatal Dog Attacks in the US, from 1965-2001”, analyzed 431 cases over 35 years: 10% involved leashed dogs or misc. circumstances - 17% resulted from attacks by dogs roaming off their owners’ property - 73% involved dogs within the boundaries of the owners’ property - (25% chained dogs, 25% dogs in yard, and 23% dogs inside the home)
In 75% of dog bites resulting in fatalities the dogs were not chained, and yet this has been frequently cited by animal rights proponents to cause aggression. (At least a chained dog can’t chase you!) I could find no controlled study to substantiate a statement that chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite. Based on my research, that's a specious assumption.
Derived from “Which dogs bite? A case-control study of risk factors” (Pediatrics 1994) which uses only 178 hand picked cases out of 991 reported bites, I would have to say that this study has no scientific merit whatsoever because, as one of my peers stated: “The study uses one of the most UN-reliable methods there is: Survey. Worse, sampler bias can be introduced to the study because samplers know which are control dogs and which are study dogs. They admit that Chows and GSDs are most common, and then announce that these two breeds are responsible for most of the bites! Worse, they rely on the owner's id of the breed, even in mixed breeds.…"
Additionally, the study specifically states that "Bite report forms indicated (dog bites) 51 (51.5%) took place on the sidewalk, street, alley or playground...; 30 (29.7%) were in the owner's yard; 14 (13.9%) in the owner's house; and 4 (4%) in the victims yard." And data on whether the bites were PROVOKED was NOT systematically reported.
Further, it goes on to state: "Biting dogs were significantly more likely to reside in homes with one or more children (less than age ten) and to be chained while in the yard. Of the 83 dogs chained while in the yard (cases plus controls), 44 (53%) had growled or snapped at visitors to the house. It seems to me that given the ridiculously small sampling (178 dog-bite cases out of a national dog population that easily exceeds 60 million), failure to separate tethering from the presence of children as contributing factors and control group methodology, I personally feel it would be a far more adequate conclusion that the contributing factor in tethered dog bites is unattended children.
Fatal Dog Attacks appears to support my assumption, stating that: 68% of fatalities were inflicted by a single dog, 79% of victims were children under the age of 12, 09% were ages 13-64 years old, 12% were elderly, 65-94 years old. Children under the age of one year accounted for the highest number of dog bite fatalities, at 19%. Over 95% of these deaths occurred when an infant was left unsupervised! The group with the second highest number of fatalities was 2 year olds, at 11%. Over 87% of these fatalities occurred when the child was left unsupervised!
Boys, ages 1-12 years old were 2.5 times more likely to be the victims of a fatal attack than girls of the same age. Of the 28 single dogs responsible for a fatal attack between 200-2001, 26 were males and only 2 were females.
The American Veterinary Medical Association publication Vet Med Today: Special Report, also compared DBRF (dog bite related fatality) statistics, collected from 1971-1998. Their findings were similar but the percentage of chained dogs dropped significantly. 19% resulted from attacks by dogs roaming off their owners’ property - 67% involved unrestrained dogs on the owner’ property - 11% involved restrained dogs on the owners’ property - 4% involved restrained dogs off the owners’ property - 67% were single dog attacks
“Some breed information was reported for all 27 attacks. As in recent years, Rottweilers were the most commonly reported breed involved in fatal attacks, followed by pit bull-type dogs.” (What was the criteria to determine "type” when even ”pit bull” is a slang term that may include several breeds?) “The denominator of a dog breed specific human DBRF rate requires reliable breed-specific data. Unfortunately, such data are not currently available.” Ninety cases were in fact, excluded from the overall study because the breed involved could not be determined.
A study by Pickney and Kennedy (Pediatrics 1982) listing DBRF (May 1975 - April of 1980 lists German Shepherd Dogs as the #1 killer for that time period, Husky type dog second and Saint Bernard third. “Indeed since 1975, dogs belonging to more than 30 breeds have been responsible for fatal attacks on people, including Dachshunds, a Yorkshire Terrier, and a Labrador Retriever.”
This article also discusses nonfatal dog bite statistics. In 1994, 1.8% of the population reported a dog bite, but only 0.3% of the population sought medical care. Citing a “36% increase in medically attended dog bites from 1986 to 1994 draws attention to the need for an effective response, including dog bite prevention programs. Because fatal bites constitute less than 0.00001% of all dog bites annually, fatal bites have remained relatively constant over time, whereas nonfatal bites have been increasing.
Pertinent to this discussion is the conclusion that un-neutered males are responsible for a disproportionate amount of dog attacks. Again, exact numbers of altered versus un-altered dogs are needed within a given study population to make an accurate evaluation and it must be taken in consideration that un-neutered males are more inclined to roam. Neutering dogs has never been proven to stop learned or innate aggressive behavior, but it does make them less likely to roam.
In “ISSUES REGARDING CASTRATION IN DOGS” (BREEDERVET ©2003), Mary Wakeman DVM writes “Politically correct conventional wisdom is not necessarily biologically correct. Also, old wives tales regarding testicles and behavioral matters are often just that. The only true justifications for castrating dogs are 1) aggressive behavior toward other dogs in the same household, and 2) perianal adenoma in old dogs. Aggression to other dogs in situations outside the house is pretty normal dog behavior. Appropriate behavior. Since your dog will be on lead or inside a secure fence at all times, there should be no problem with dogs outside your household. However, if male house mates fight, and both need to stay with you, castration of one or both may solve the aggression problems.
If you fault your dog for being aggressive to acquaintances while being walked on lead, you should not. He is guarding you. That simple. Honorable behavior. If you fault your dog for aggression in a 'dog park' where he is running free, or on the beach, or in the woods, well shame on you; you're the one at fault for risking his life in such an uncontrolled situation. Dogs that can manage such encounters without aggression are fine, but you cannot automatically expect a dog to have friendly relations with animals from outside his own 'pack'. It goes against his whole evolution.” She goes on to list several medical problems associated with castration.
Municipal Court Judge, Francis X. Gorman (7-8-2004 Toledo, OH) stated: “Obviously the ratio of dog bites per dog versus dog population seemingly would be relevant in this case. .. Candidly, this court feels that ... Pit Bulls do not cause the most bites in the United States. Certainly the bites of mixed breed dogs far exceed those of the Pit Bull because there are many more mixed breed dogs than Pit Bulls. Moreover, even local statistics indicate that, for example, the Chow bites more frequently than the Pit Bull.” A recent study of the medical charts of minors seeking medical attention for dog bites did actually reference the breed involved (as identified by the veterinarian providing proof of rabies vaccination) to the total breed population as could reasonably be determined by administrative district records (Pediatrics, March 2006). The resulting risk index showed that German Shepherd Dogs were 5 times more likely to cause bite trauma than “pit bulls”.
The website for the Centers for Disease Control has a disclaimer about their own, often misused and misquoted statistics. "A CDC study on fatal dog bites lists the breeds involved in fatal attacks over 20 years...does not identify specific breeds that are most likely to bite or kill, and thus is not appropriate for policy-making decisions related to the topic. And "There is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill." Since the source for their statistics was news reports (see “Media Bias”) and data supplied by an animal rights organization with a frightening political agenda, the study is all but useless.
To put all of this into perspective I offer some additional information that I discovered. In the United States, approximately: 2,000 children are killed every year by their parents, through abuse and neglect (A child is 800 times more likely to be killed by their adult caretaker than by a “Pit Bull”)
Dr. Ian Dunbar, a veterinarian and behaviorist from Berkeley, CA. believes the entire issue is overblown. He maintains more people are killed annually by tripping over their own slippers than all fatal dog attacks combined, regardless of breed. Even Dr. Julie Gilchrist of the CDC agrees. “The truth is that SUV’s are far more dangerous than pit bulls, and they’re still on the road."
It is estimated that around 5,000,000 dogs per year are killed in shelters. In many places “Pit Bulls” make up as much as 30-50% of the shelter population, and sadly, are less likely to be considered for adoption than any other breed. Assuming that 25% of the shelter dogs killed are “Pit Bulls”, then approximately 1.25 million “Pit Bulls” are killed in shelters every year.
Therefore, it is at least a hundred thousand times more likely that a “Pit Bull” will be killed by a HUMAN, than the other way around.