Monday, May 29, 2006

Fatal Dog Attacks

A while back, Laura Maloney, the director of the LA-SPCA, recommended a book to me: . It is really just a book of statistics from 1964-2001 of dog attacks in the US: what breeds, where, under what circumstances, etc. The point being: there are nearly always multiple circumstances that lead to an attack, but people try to look at things in isolation.

I've been meaning to link to the book, but the other day I discovered something even more useful: the book now has a website.

Some of the numbers:

Location of Attack
25% of all fatal attacks were inflicted by chained dogs
25% resulted from dogs loose in their yard
23% occurred inside the home
17% resulted from attacks by dogs roaming off their property
10% involved leashed dogs or miscellaneous circumstances

Number of Dogs
68% of all fatal attacks were inflicted by a single dog
32% was the result of a multiple dog attack

Victim Profile
79% of all fatal attacks were on children under the age of 12
12% of the victims were the elderly, aged 65 - 94
9% of the victims were 13 - 64 years old

The age group with the highest number of fatalities were children under the age of 1 year old; accounting for 19% of the deaths due to dog attack. Over 95% of these fatalities occurred when an infant was left unsupervised with a dog(s).

The age group with the second-highest number of fatalities were 2-year-olds; accounting for 11% of the fatalities due to dog attack. Over 87% of these fatalities occurred when the 2-year-old child was left unsupervised with a dog(s) or the child wandered off to the location of the dog(s).

Boys aged 1 - 12 years old were 2.5 times more likely to be the victim of a fatal dog attack than girls of the same age.

Reproductive Status of Dogs
Overwhelmingly, the dogs involved in fatal dog attacks were unaltered males.
From 2000-2001 there were 41 fatal dog attacks. Of these, 28 were attacks by a single dog and 13 fatalities were caused by multiple dogs.

Of the 28 single dogs responsible for a fatal attack between 2000-2001;
26 were males and 2 were females. Of the 26 males, 21 were found to be intact (the reproductive status of the remaining 5 males dogs could not be determined).


Linda Berris said...

Thanks for posting this, Ken. It was enlightening to see the statistic relating tethering and dog aggression. An article in today's Chicago Tribune discusses the proposed pit bull ban in Chicago and some alternative measures being proposed. One advisor explains the direct relationship between chained animals and aggression: dogs that are tethered for long periods of time become frustrated, and that frustration transforms into aggression and hostility that simply explodes when the animal is released.

(The article can be viewed here:,1,1719768.story?coll=chi-news-hed)

The Chicago advisory group is proposing to regulate the maximum amount of time an animal can be tethered. Frankly, I think tethering should be against the law, period. It is just as cruel and inhumane as torturing an animal or subjecting it to dog fights, and people who do it should face stiff fines and/or jail time for animal abuse. If a dog is outside in a yard, it should be free to move around. (Untethered dogs shouldn't be left outside unattended for very long either, both for their own safety as well as the safety of humans and other animals.) There is no reason a dog should be tied up outside (or inside!) of a house. People who do this are just plain ignorant, and this becomes clear if you speak with them for any length of time about why they do it. They will tell you the animal is "bred" to be a watchdog or to live outside, or that they are doing it because the animal is "dangerous" (which was probably not true when they got it, but most likely is after tethering it). If an animal is truly dangerous and cannot be rehabilitated by a behaviorist, then it should be put down--it certainly should not be tied to a post in a yard!

When I was a veterinary tech in an animal ER in NYC, I saw unbelievable cases of abuse resultng from extensive tethering. One case I will never forget (if you're squeamish, don't read on) is that of a dog that had been chained in a woman's basement for months. The dog had been a puppy when the woman got it, and had long outgrown its collar (a chain choke collar). As the dog grew, the chain cut into its neck and then the skin healed around the chain, embedding parts of it in the neck muscles and skin, which had become badly infected and necrotic and were infested with maggots. We literally had to cut the chain out. In all my years as a tech, that is one of the very few times I became physically ill--and it was not from the smell and sight of the wounds but from the unbelievable suffering this poor animal (which amazingly was *not* aggressive and in fact was very sweet) had endured. I don't recall what the woman's reasons were for chaining the animal, but I do remember they were pretty insane.

Of course, this was an extreme case of a clearly deranged person, but tieing up a dog in a yard for any of the supposedly "logical" reasons is not much saner. I don't care how much shade or water the animal has: if the dog cannot stay in the house, you shouldn't have a dog. If you have it for a watch dog, find it a good home and install a burglar alarm--in the long run it will be cheaper.

ARGH!! Sorry for the lengthy post but this is one topic that makes me nuts!!

Kristine Larsen said...

Hey Ken,
Thanks for posting is a great book and has been indispensible in my quest to educate about the ineffectiveness of BSL.

Another GREAT must-have book on the subject is, Dogs Bite But Balloons and Slippers Are More Dangerous, by Janis Bradley.

filled with no nonsense, 'real' statistics on dog bites...great tool to put the hysteria into perspective.


Pat said...

Another interesting article is in the Feb 6, 2006 issue of the New Yorker called "The problems with Profiling - What Pit Bulls can Teach us about Profiling", by Malcom Gladwell.

In this article, which is about profiling for security, and how if you want to profile, you need to use stable generalizations, has a number of interesting notes about pit bulls and dog attacks.

The article presents mentions a study in 1991 in denver which compared 178 dogs with a history of biting with 178 dogs withoug a history of biting (no pit bulls in the study, however).

* dogs that bit are 6.2 times moe likely to be make than female and
* 2.6 times more likely to be intact and
* 2.8 times as likely to be chained as unchained.

It's a very interesting article.