Dog Bite Fatalities: Breed or Human Problem?

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5.6.14 - Dog Bite Fatalities - Breed or Human Problem

Dr. Ken Tudor shares information that we dog lovers have known for a long time:  when it comes to dog attacks and problem behavior, it’s NOT the dog – it IS the human.  A 10-year correlational study showed that breed specific legislation doesn’t work, because breed doesn’t determine aggression – how dogs are treated does.

At petMD, we’ve has had some long and spirited discussions about dog breeds and human attacks by dogs. Many contributors to the discussion rightly pointed out the lack of reliable data surrounding this issue. Yet the political answer to the situation is always breed specific legislation (BSL). In other words, ban the ownership or restrict the activity of specific breeds alleged to be involved in human attacks. Municipalities persist with this narrow focus despite studies that indicate the ineffectiveness of these programs.

The results of a 10-year study recently reported in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association sheds further light on the complexity of this issue. It identifies preventable factors that are far more significant than breed.

The researchers examined the data from 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the U.S. between the years 2000-2009. They generated the following statistics for factors involved in the fatal attacks:

– In 87% there was an absence of an able-bodied person to intervene
– 45% of the victims were less than 5-years old
– 85% of the victims had only incidental or no familiarity with the dogs
– 84% of the dogs were not neutered
– 77% of the victims had compromised ability (age or other conditions) to interact appropriately with dogs
– 76% of the dogs were kept isolated from regular positive human interactions
– 38% of the dog owners had histories of prior mismanagement of dogs
– 21% of the dog owners had a history of abuse or neglect of dogs
– In 81% of the attacks 4 or more of the above factors were involved
– 31% of the dog breeds differed from media reports
– 40% of the dog breeds differed from both media and animal control reports
– Only 18% of the dogs had validated (DNA) breed identification
– 20 breeds and 2 known mixed breeds were represented in the attacks

These statistics indicate that most of the factors surrounding dog-bite related fatalities are preventable and unrelated to dog breed.

The first statistic shows the obvious lack of supervision in these attacks. Responsible dog and victim parental or caretaker supervision most certainly could have prevented the majority of these deaths.

73% of the dogs were chained or isolated in fenced outdoor areas or indoor areas. Only 15% of the dogs were allowed to roam. Nearly three-quarters of the attacks occurred on the dog owner’s property. Restricting access to these areas could prevent many attacks.

Interestingly, 67% of the older victims that were deemed compromised were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, another preventable circumstance. Only five of the victims were compromised due to Alzheimer’s, dementia, or uncontrollable seizure disorders.

The reporting errors in this study are also disturbing. Fatal dog attacks are always media sensations and heavily reported. Yet we can only trust that 60% of the reports of breed identification from the media and involved animal control officials are accurate. And unfortunately, it is media reports rather than fact that spur the political decisions that lead to breed specific legislation. Based on this study, 20 breeds and 2 mixed breeds should face legislation rather than the few that are presently targeted.

The ugly truth about this study is that it points to human behavior as the cause of dog attacks on humans. Social responsibility cannot be legislated. Many of these dog owners had histories of animal mismanagement, yet the penalties or consequences were inadequate to change the behavior. It would have been interesting if the study had also looked at previous behaviors and histories of the parents of the young victims.

Whether programs for responsible pet ownership, bite prevention education, or dog related parent supervision education are widely effective has yet to be proven. Certainly breed specific legislation is not the answer. A recent Canadian study showed that there were no significant differences in the number of bite related hospital visits before and after communities adopted breed specific legislation.

Dr. Ken Tudor

Dog Bite Fatalities: Breed or Human Problem?” originally appeared on PetMD.com.

 

 

 

 

5 thoughts on “Dog Bite Fatalities: Breed or Human Problem?”

  1. This article has everything right. I just don’t know how many people would actually become aware to this. It needs to be brought to light and put to the general attention of communities. This is the only way people can know and things can change for these poor sweet dogs.

    Reply
    • Can you not read???????????

      “Captain Sherri Warburton, head of Delaware Animal Care and Control, reported that the dogs were unvaccinated and they were not spayed or neutered.”

      What does it state right here in the article in black and white about the irresponsibility of the typical owner of bite-related fatalities????? A fifth grader should be able to comprehend what the 10 years worth of studies concluded:

      The researchers examined the data from 256 dog bite-related fatalities in the U.S. between the years 2000-2009. They generated the following statistics for factors involved in the fatal attacks:

      – In 87% there was an absence of an able-bodied person to intervene
      – 45% of the victims were less than 5-years old
      – 85% of the victims had only incidental or no familiarity with the dogs
      – 84% of the dogs were not neutered
      – 77% of the victims had compromised ability (age or other conditions) to interact appropriately with dogs
      – 76% of the dogs were kept isolated from regular positive human interactions
      – 38% of the dog owners had histories of prior mismanagement of dogs
      – 21% of the dog owners had a history of abuse or neglect of dogs
      – In 81% of the attacks 4 or more of the above factors were involved
      – 31% of the dog breeds differed from media reports
      – 40% of the dog breeds differed from both media and animal control reports
      – Only 18% of the dogs had validated (DNA) breed identification
      – 20 breeds and 2 known mixed breeds were represented in the attacks

      Post evidential links to “and there are a lot of them” too. Don’t just throw anecdotal BS out there without any support.

      Reply
      • Can you not think? So what if the dogs were not vaccinated or neutered? That makes it OK to kill? And, it was one 10-year correlational study, done by a biased pit-bull owner. Now, as to the statistics cited-
        1- 87% of the – In 87% there was an absence of an able-bodied person to intervene– SO WHAT? Why should the LIFE of a person depend on a “able-bodied person intervening? One reason- pit bull breeds tend to bite hard, not let go, and shake until the victim is dead. It takes an able bodied person- usually with a gun- to get a pit bull to let go. Often it is too late!
        2- 45% of the victims were less than 5-years old– EXACTLY why pits are so dangerous! They mistake children as prey and attack!
        3- 85% of the victims had only incidental or no familiarity with the dogs– again, SO WHAT! It only means that neighorhoods with pit bulls are in danger more than the family of the pit bull is.
        4- 84% of the dogs were not neutered– So the problem would be fixed if 100% of pit bulls were neutered? OK, I vote for that.
        – 77% of the victims had compromised ability (age or other conditions) to interact appropriately with dogs— What they mean is that they didn’t know how to act appropriately with dogs that had the potential to be vicious- namely pit bulls.
        – 76% of the dogs were kept isolated from regular positive human interactions– this is directly contradicted by the many cases of family pet pit bulls who were “always sweet” sand “never agressive” who attack owners, famiy members, neighbor children, etc. AND even this were true, it means that 24% of these cases were by dogs that WERE raised with positive interactions. That means that positive interactions DO NOT pervent these attacks at all!
        – 38% of the dog owners had histories of prior mismanagement of dogs– This means that 62% DID NOT have any such history!
        – 21% of the dog owners had a history of abuse or neglect of dogs– AND 79% HAD NO SUCH HISTORY
        – In 81% of the attacks 4 or more of the above factors were involved- Many of these “factors” are just information- like the victims were children. THis is completely meaningless!
        – 31% of the dog breeds differed from media reports– Now this is really nonsense. WHO SAID that the breeds differered from media reports? If only 18% were DNA tested, how do they know the breed was not what the media reported? The media gets its information from the owner, victim, family members, neighbors, police. If they all say “pit bull”, who is it that is deciding that the media report is wrong?
        – 40% of the dog breeds differed from both media and animal control reports– same HUGE flaw as above
        – Only 18% of the dogs had validated (DNA) breed identification OK, that just means that the last two points are garbage.
        – 20 breeds and 2 known mixed breeds were represented in the attacks– SAYS WHO, and what were the breeds? And who decided on what the breeds were?

        Biased “research” gives biased crap.

        Reply
    • German shephards, golden retrievers, great danes, boxers, bull mastiffs, rotweilers, chows, labs, and australian shephards are just a few of the breeds, other than pit bulls, that have been reported in dog attacks. Pit bulls are just the newest breed to be targeted.

      Reply

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