Dog bite statistics in the United States have consistently shown that children, usually boys, are the victims of most dog bite attacks, and that most instances occur in an area familiar to the dog. Another consistent epidemiological finding has been that German shepherds and Chows are the breeds that most frequently attack people. Contrary to what some might think, pit bull type dogs do not rank high in terms of the frequency of dog bite attack. However, statistics on fatal dog attack clearly show that pit bull type dogs are the kind of dog most frequently involved, and that 20-40 people are killed each year in the United States Usually, fatal dog bite victims are either the very young or elderly, and usually alone when the incident happens.
A neglected question is whether dog bite statistics differ between countries. One of the few studies which addresses this question was published by a group of Australian researchers in 2001 entitled “Dog Bite and Injury Prevention –Analysis, Critical Review, and Research Agenda” by J. Ozanne-Smith, et al. The study compared The Australian dog bit injury statistics with similar statistics from the United States and Canada. Data on frequency of dog bites, and the severity, nature, circumstances, and trends of dog bites in Australia were compared with statistics taken from studies conducted in the United States and Canada.
Generally, for all countries the incidence of dog bites in the absence of fatality was similar. Rates for dog bite fatality differed considerably; however. The comparison found the United States to have the highest death rate from dog bite fatality at 0.05-0.07/100,000, with Canada second highest at 0.007/100,000 and Australia the lowest at 0.004/100,000. Overall, rates of hospitalization in all countries caused by dog bite injury were about the same and stable from 1987 to 1998. Fewer children under five years old were hospitalized, which corresponds with a general decline in dog ownership. Children 0-4 years old had the greatest risk for serious injury, especially facial injuries. Adults had longer hospital stays. Adult hospitalizations were usually for upper extremity injury.
The study identified certain risks factors associated with dog bite injury common to all countries. These included:
- Children – Dog bite attacks disproportionally happen to children under 10 years of age;
- Gender of the victim – Males are attacked more frequently than females;
- Households with dogs – The presence of a dog in a household increases the risk of dog bite attack;
- Breed – certain breeds are more likely to attack people; for example, German Shepherds;
- Gender of the attacking dog – Male dogs are more likely to attack people when compared with female dogs;
- Location of home – Most dog bite attacks happen in territory of the dog.
The authors emphasize the need for preventative measures, such as enforcement of current laws, campaigns to promote responsible dog ownership (separating young children from dogs, avoiding high risk dogs, and neutering), and the development of a standardized monitoring system set up to store reusable epidemiological data about dog bite attacks on people.