The number of
35 percent of American households owned a dog in 1994, and the U.S. dog
population exceeded 52 million. (Wise JK, Yang JJ. Dog and cat
ownership, 1991-1998. J Am Vet Med Assoc Vet Med Asso 1994;204:1166-7.)
number of victims. A survey by the national Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention in Atlanta
("CDC") concludes that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S.
population -- more than 4.7 million people annually. (Sacks JJ, Kresnow M,
Houston B. Dog bites: how big a problem? Injury Prev 1996;-4.) Almost 800,000 bites
per year -- one out of every 6 -- are serious enough to require medical
attention. 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.) Bites to
children represent more than 50 percent of the total number cases.
Twenty-six percent of dog bites in children compared with 12 percent in
adults require medical care. (Ibid.) Every year 2,851 letter carriers are
bitten. (US Postal Service.) An American has a one in 50 chance of being
bitten by a dog each year. (Centers for Disease Control [CDC].)
number of fatalities. In the U.S.
from 1979 to 1996, 304 people in the U.S. died from dog attacks, including 30
in California. The average number of deaths per year was 17. Most deaths
occurred in children. (Centers for Disease Control, "Dog-Bite-Related
Fatalities -- United States, 1995-1996," MMWR 46(21):463-467,
1997.) The chances that 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.
financial impact of dog bites. Dog attack victims in
suffer over $1 billion in monetary losses every year. ("Take the
bite out of man's best friend." State Farm Times, 1998;3(5):2.)
One in three homeowner insurance claims pertains to a dog bite. (Ibid.) The
average insurance payout is $12,000. (Ibid.)
bites are on the rise: Although the number of dogs in the United
States increased by only 2% between 1986 and 1996, the number of dog bite
injuries requiring medical treatment rose by 37%. (Weiss HB, Friedman DI,
Coben JH. "Incidence of dog bite injuries treated in emergency departments." JAMA 1998;279:51-53.)
scene of attack is home or a familiar place. The majority of
dog attacks (61%) happen at home or in a familiar place.
bite family and friends. The vast majority of
biting dogs (77%) belong to the victim's family or a friend.
The Centers for Disease Control study dog bite incidents, including the
types of dogs most likely to bite. The breeds that the CDC considers highest
risk are pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, Huskies, Alaskan malamutes,
Doberman pinschers, Chows, Great Danes, St. Bernards and Akitas.
pit bull mixes and Rottweillers are most likely to kill and seriously maim,
fatal attacks since 1975 have been attributed to dogs from at least 30 breeds.
The most horrifying example of the lack of breed
predictability is the October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, which was killed
by her family's Pomeranian dog. The average weight of a Pomeranian is about 4
pounds, and they are not thought of as a dangerous breed. Note, however, that
they were bred to be watchdogs! The baby's uncle left the infant and the dog on
a bed while the uncle prepared her bottle in the kitchen. Upon his return, the
dog was mauling the baby, who died shortly afterwards. ("Baby Girl
Killed by Family Dog,"Los
Times, Monday, October 9, 2000,
Home Edition, Metro Section, Page B-5.)
all fairness, therefore, it must be noted that:
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.
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 the Pomeranian that killed the infant (see above).
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.
public should beware that in all cases irresponsible owners are the problem. The
reason is that irresponsible behavior has caused a rising and unacceptable
injury and death toll, which authorities are determined to stem.
behavior" is defined differently from place to place. In California,
for example, it can be a felony for a person to possess a dog trained to
fight, attack or kill that, because of the owner's lack of
ordinary care, bites two people or seriously injures one person.
different parts of theUnited
States at the current time, there
are a number of parents who are on trial for manslaughter because their dogs
have killed their children. In these cases, the prosecutors have taken the
position that the parents behaved irresponsibly because they left their children
in the company of dogs most likely to bite.
is an 8 out of 10 chance that a biting dog is male. (Humane Society of theUnited
States.) There is a 6 out of 10
chance that a biting dog has not been neutered. (Humane Society of the United