Dog Bite Injuries
Dog Bite Fatalities
Breed, Victim & Place
Cost of Dog Bites
Factors that Impede Progress
|People are often bit when approaching a female dog that is attending to puppies .
|Chained dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs.
- Several factors influence a dog's propensity to bite. They include a dog's heredity, sex, early experience, socialization and training, health, reproductive status, and quality of ownership.
- Male dogs are 6.2 times more likely to bite than female dogs, sexually intact dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs, and chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs.12
- Dogs from popular large breeds are capable of inflicting more damage if they do bite, and thus, account for a disproportionate number of reported dog bites.13
- Between 1979 and 1998, pit bulls and pit bull mixed breeds were responsible for 76 out of 238, or 32% of all reported dog bites.8
- Environmental factors associated with increased dog bite risk include unrestrained dogs located on the owner's property, which accounted for 58% of all dog bite fatalities. 8
Dog Bite Risk Factors: Dog, Victim and Place of Attack
Dog bite risk factors involve the agent, host and environment of the classic epidemiological model. In describing common characteristics of biting dogs, their victims, and the places of attack, it is not entirely clear whether dog bite fatalities are simply the most severe manifestation of the same dog biting problem, or whether fatal dog attacks are distinct and separate from dog bites. Since the number of dog bite fatalities has held fairly constant over time and the number of reported dog bite injuries has increased sharply in the last decade, it would seem likely that there are, indeed, separate risk factors for each outcome. However, the lack of comprehensive dog bite data prevents drawing firm conclusions. The following is a discussion of both fatal and non-fatal risk factors.
Several factors influence a dog's propensity to bite. They include a dog's heredity, sex, early experience, socialization and training, health, reproductive status, and quality of ownership. Male dogs are 6.2 times more likely to bite than female dogs, sexually intact dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs, and chained dogs are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs.12 Intact male dogs have higher rates of dominance aggression than neutered dogs, as do female dogs when they are laboring or caring for young pups. Dogs from popular large breeds are capable of inflicting more damage if they do bite, and thus, account for a disproportionate number of reported dog bites.13
Acknowledging that large dogs tend to do more damage when they do happen to bite does not discount the fact that certain breeds are intentionally bred for aggression, and that certain dog owners are drawn to these breeds. American pit bulls are descendants of bulldogs, a breed used in the nineteenth century for dog fighting that has retained a lowered inhibition to aggression. Most dogs fight as a last resort, but a pit bull is willing to fight with little or no provocation. Pit bulls often strike without growling or assuming an aggressive facial expression, and they are often insensitive to behaviors displayed by defeated dogs that usually stop an attack, such as rolling over and exposing the underside of the belly. On several occasions, pit bulls have been reported to disembowel dogs offering this signal of submission.14 Thus, it is no surprise that during the twenty-year study period between 1979 and 1998, pit bulls and pit bull mixed breeds were responsible for 76 out of 238, or 32% of all reported dog bite fatalities.8
As previously mentioned, children are the most common victims of both fatal and non-fatal dog bites, with boys experiencing more bite injuries (293.2 per 100,000) than girls (216.7 per 100,000).4 Based on the 2001 NEISS-AIP data, children aged 0 to 14 years comprised 42% of all persons seeking emergency department care for dog bites, and based on the analysis of 1997-1998 data, 70% of all dog bite fatalities were children aged 0 to 11 years.4,8 Older adults, also seem to be at increased risk. The 1997-1998 fatality data shows that 19% of victims were aged 70 or older.8 In 1996, an 86 year-old woman in Tennessee exited her house to check her mail and was fatally mauled by two rottweilers owned by her neighbor. The same two dogs had attacked and injured the woman one month prior to the fatal attack.15 Finally, those who have jobs that bring them into close proximity with dogs (mail carriers, animal clinic staff, delivery persons, and animal control staff) are at increased risk for dog bites.4
Environmental factors that have been associated with increased dog bite risk include free-moving dogs located on the owner's property, which accounted for 58% of all dog bite fatalities.8 The next highest risk situation involved unrestrained dogs located off the owner's property, which accounted for 24% of deaths during the 1979-1998 study period.8 As mentioned previously, the overall number of dog bite injuries increases slightly from April through September, with a peak occurring in July, probably due to increased outdoor activities, that bring people into increased contact with dogs.4 Most environmental data regarding dog bites is missing in the current national sampling methods and in the more in-depth fatality investigations. For example, only anecdotal data is available regarding the socioeconomic status of the dog owners and the victims, the number of dogs living in a biting household and the victims' activities just prior to the attacks.