The elderly and the very young are killed by dogs more frequently when compared with other age groups in the United States, according to dog bite expert witness Richard Polsky, Ph.D.
This finding in part can be accounted because individuals in these age groups are unable to adequately defend themselves against powerful dogs with aggressive intent. And another reason is that the vast majority of dog bite fatalities occur when the victim is alone with no person nearby to help fend-off an aggressive dog.
Hence, it is not surprising that the first dog bite fatality victim in the United States in 2015 was an elderly person – an 87-year-old man who was attacked and killed by a pit bull type dog as he was disassembling his Christmas tree. The incident happened on January 7, 2015 in Frederick County, Maryland. According to news reports, the pit bull was still in the midst of mauling the victim, Eugene Smith, when the police arrived at the scene. Smith was taken to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Smith rescued the dog in 2014. Hence, one would logically ask what was this 87-year-old man thinking when he choose to adopt this pit bull type dog? Given the disparity regarding physical attributes between Smith and his killer, it is likely that Smith could not meet the needs of this dog for exercise, or establish sufficient control over the dog. The relationship between two therefore may have been compromised. Details of what “triggered” the attack remain known and probably will never be fully understood. Once the attack started, it is likely that Smith was unable to defend himself, as is the case with almost all fatal dog attacks involving the elderly.