Columns: No Margins, No Limits, No Kidding!
Comprehensive dog bite statistics; % of children or elderly bitten, breeds most likely to bite and a startling statistical conclusion to this in-depth research!
DOG BITE STATISTICS: PAST 50 YEARS
by Ms. Jade, TheDogPress Legislative Reporter
Rising rate of dog bites, dog bite fatalities, number and ages of children bitten, and comparison rates of unprovoked dog bite attacks 1955 through 2009.
How many times have we heard someone in the media make inflammatory statements about dog bite statistics without ever citing a source?
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.”
The “4.7 million” appears to come from a JAVMA article evaluating data from 1994, almost six years earlier!
Sourcing statistics 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. 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 even though chaining has been frequently cited by animal rights proponents to cause aggression. 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 used only 178 hand picked cases out of 991 reported bites. One of my peers stated: “...sampler bias can be introduced to the study because samplers know which are control dogs and which are study dogs."
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, I personally feel a far more adequate conclusion was 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 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 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.” 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) May 1975 - April of 1980 lists German Shepherd Dogs as the #1 killer for that time period, Husky type dogs second and Saint Bernards 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 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."
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 strange acquaintances while being walked on lead, you should not. He is guarding you. That is 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.
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 was identified by the veterinarian providing proof of rabies vaccination).. (Pediatrics, March 2006). The risk index showed that German Shepherd Dogs were 5 times more likely to cause bite trauma than “pit bulls”.
The CDC website 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 political agenda, the study is all but useless.
To put all of this into perspective I offer some additional information. 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.
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