Dog bite - Cat bite Expert Witness

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Website author: Animal behavior expert

Richard H. Polsky Ph.D.

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The internet's most comprehensive website on animal behavior & dog bite law

Fatal dog attacks in the USA

       Number of dog bite fatalities in the United States: 2005 – 2015

2005: 28
2006:  31
2007:  35
2008:  23
2009:  32
2010:   33
2011:   31
2012:   38
2013:   32
2014:   38

                         Current Year: 1 (updated 1/9/15)

1 January. 87-year-old man killed by pit bull in Maryland while disassembling Christmas tree


I direct the reader to the dog bite fatality page on Wikipedia for more comprehensive information on this topic.

Below, I will state the general concerns I have with regard to the reporting of statistics on fatal dog attacks by others on some websites.

  • First, some authors have strong biases against the pit bull type dogs.  As such, these authors present dog bite fatality data that are “cherry picked” for the purposes of promoting a campaign which unquestionably demeans pit bull type dogs.  Such bias reporting obviously negatively affects the Fatal dog attackperception lawmakers and others have for pit bull type dogs.  It appears that some webmasters have as their life mission to demean the pit bull as much as possible and they use their website as a tool to accomplish this end. Clearly some, but not all pit bulls, are be dangerous by nature.  Unfortunately, some webmasters choose to ignore the fact that not all pit bulls are dangerous by nature. Many honorable Americans have  owned pit bulls  as pets, including Thomas Edison, Theodore Roosevelt, and many others.
  • Second, the accuracy of data on fatal dog attacks depends entirely on the validity and accuracy of facts about the incident as reported in news stories by the journalists who write the stories.  Webmasters depend on this information to create the content on their sites, yet the extent to which the information published is independently verified by these authors remains dubious.  Generally, the information is taking on face value. This may be problematic for a number of reasons. Particularly significant is the information reported about the breed of dog involved.  Occasionally, mistakes in correctly identifying the breed of dog(s) involved in a fatal attack happen (see problems with pit bull terrier identification). Likewise, other data collection techniques (animal control reports, police reports, witness observation) used for breed identification purposes in fatal dogs attack investigations may  be flawed because of problems inherent with accurate breed identification through visual means.
  • Third, because mistaken breed identity may occurs, numbers may be inflated for certain kinds of dogs, such as pit bull type dogs.
  • Fourth, it is important to note that a pit bull is not a breed of dog.  Instead, the term “pit bull” only describes a dog that has an appearance similar to a American Pit Bull terrier or American Staffordshire terrier.   In some cases a dog identified as a pit bull, based on its physical appearance, may be genetically similar to the American Staffordshire Terrier (AKC recognized) or an American Pit Bull (UKC recognized), but in other cases the dog is genetically dissimilar.
  • Fifth, the reader should note the incidences of fatalities listed on any website may not represent every case in the United States where death was caused by a dog attack. It is conceivable that some fatal dog attacks in the United States go unreported, particularly in rural areas.

Finally, the fatalities reported on many websites may not be a direct result of injuries sustained from a dog attack. For example, in some dog bite fatalities the primary cause of death is secondary to bite injuries caused by an attack.  Examples include caradic arrest, freezing to death after falling unconscious following an attack, rabies, septicaemia, infection or falling on head as a result of being attacked.  For example, I recall a reported incident in March 2010 incident in Lucknow, South Carolina involving a 65-year-old lady.  Several websites reported this as a dog bite fatality caused by a pit bull attack, but subsequently the autopsy indicated a fatal heart attack was the primary cause of death (presumably from the stress of the attack). Also, note that a human fatality can be caused by the behavior of a dog that does not involve aggressive intent (e.g. smothering). Click here for medical perspective on the causes of death as a direct result of the dog attack. aablackdoghead

Related content on fatal dog bites


Dr. Polsky is in animal behavior dog bite specialist located in Los Angeles, California. He has been retained as an expert by attorneys on hundreds of occasions and also in several high profile dog bite fatality cases throughout the United States, including the well-publicized San Francisco dog mauling. Dr. Polsky welcomes inquiries from attorneys.

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