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Dog Bite Overview

The Center for Disease Control reports that 4.7 million individuals annually are injured from dog bites and children ages 5 to 9 are the most frequent victims. This widespread and serious problem is compounded by the fact that few people, especially dog owners, realize the extent and potential for injury and death from our favorite pet and man’s best friend, the dog.

How Dog Bites Occur

In some cases, dog bites are the fault of the victim alone due to their negligence or poor judgment. However, in most cases involving dog bite injuries the dog’s owner or negligence is a contributing factor as well as the negligence of the property owner on which the dog bite took place. Sadly, our love of dogs can often blind us to the fact that dogs are strong, intelligent and dangerous animals, leaving both dog owners and those who come in contact with dogs unprepared and uninformed about the safety measures and precautions necessary when interacting with canines.

Dog bites may occur when a dog owner is negligent in restraining their dog, either in an enclosure or on a tether or a leash. When a sudden movement or perceived threat stimulates the dog to attack and there is no restraint system in place the potential for serious injury is increased.

In some cases, the dog is trained by its owner as a guard dog to protect the owner and his or her property and attack trespassers or strangers. A dog trained to attack may act aggressively towards people it encounters who do not have a harmful intent, and bite or maim the unintentional offenders.

In many cases, an oblivious or ignorant family member or babysitter may leave a small child alone with a dog without adult supervision. Children, who are not known for their restraint and empathy, can easily provoke even the mildest-tempered animal to attack. Sadly, these types of dog bite accidents are doubly tragic in that dog attacks on children are usually serious or fatal and that they could easily have been prevented.

Often, pet owners or other people who come in contact with a dog will unwittingly act in an offensive or aggressive manner. In some cases, the dog feels threatened, in other cases the dog mistakenly believes the human to be playing but in nearly all cases dogs are unaware of the potential physical damage they can do to human beings. Because dogs view the world differently than humans, it is easy for an uninformed person to cross the line. Some instances where dogs may feel obligated to attack are when a person comes too close to a dog’s puppies, when a person tries to remove a food bowl a dog is eating from or a toy a dog is playing with, and when a dog is teased or physically abused. Because of this, these sorts of situations are the fault of the pet owners or humans involved.

Dog Bite Statistics

  • Over 1,000 people daily visit emergency rooms as a result of dog attacks.
  • Dog bite incidents are on the rise, and have been increasing steadily and dramatically in the last 30 years.
  • Between 20 and 30 people die each year as a result of dog bites.
  • Alaskan Malamutes, German Shepherds, Huskies, PitBulls and Rottweiler are the breeds responsible for at least 75% of dog bite attacks in the United States. 
  • August has the most dog bite attacks of any month of the year. This is believed to be caused by the pleasant weather and longer daylight hours which lead more adults and children to spend time outside where they can more easily come into contact with dogs.
  • United States postal workers account for approximately 3,000 dog bites each year.
  • 70% of serious dog bite injuries happen to children, who are bitten most frequently on the neck, face and head.
  • Most dog bite attacks occur in the home or other familiar locations.
  • Nearly 33% of all homeowner insurance liability claims filed in the United States are dog bite cases.

Types of Dog Bites Injuries

According to the National Canine Research Council, dog bites can be classified into four categories: fatal dog bites, serious or severe dog bites, minor dog bites and unreported dog bites.

It is impossible to know how many dog bites go unreported, but researchers believe it is a significant number. For the most part it is assumed that these unreported dog bites were neither life threatening nor serious, but it is also possible that injuries from unreported dog bites were due to the individual’s engagement in illegal activities such as trespassing or illegal dogfights.

A minor dog bite is an injury that has no lasting physical effects. These types of bites normally result in no more than a bruise, scratch or slight puncture of the skin from the canine’s teeth or nails and require very little or no medical treatment. Fortunately, nearly all dog bite injuries are minor bites.

Serious or severe dog bites may be single or multiple bites resulting in deep wounds, punctures and lacerations and may require extensive medical treatment such as stitches or surgery. Some minor dog bites that have become infected can be reclassified as serious dog bites once the infection takes hold. Serious dog bites remain steady at between 1% and 10% of all reported dog bites each year.

Fatal dog bites are quite rare, claiming between 15 and 35 individual lives annually. Normally preventable, fatal dog bites are usually caused by guard or attack dogs, un-spayed or neutered canines and the failure of the dog’s owner to contain, leash, muzzle or otherwise supervise their pets.

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