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)
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 suprisingly difficult, as assurance of accuracy.
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
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%)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
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 cases out of a national dog population that easily exceeds
60 million), lack of both numerator and denominator for
containment figures, 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 Fatal Dog Attacks study concludes, “While at times
informative, statistics on fatal dog attacks can also be
misleading. For example, a number of cases where a Pit Bull,
Rottweiler or German Shepherd Dog were counted as causing a
human fatality, in reality the direct result was from gross
human negligence or criminal intent”. (Hmmm…you don’t say?)
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’
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 even
A study by Pickney and Kennedy (Pediatrics
1982) listing DBRF from May of 1975 through 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. The
connection to tumors is discussed by Myrna Milani DVM in “Spay,
Neuter, and Cancer”
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
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
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
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
Reference digging is easy with a gold shovel!
Best Breeds For Kids matches age group and interests to the right breed.
Dog Bite Statistics; 1955 to Current shocking conclusion on Pit Bulls!!!
The Three Most Aggressive Breeds according to this newspaper
Dog Bite Statistics thoroughly researched with an amazing conclusion
Why Dogs Bite Back, 99% of all dog bites are preventable.
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