Public health concerns over dog bites have given rise to many studies which have examined the epidemiology and demographics of dog bites. The most recent national study confirmed the widely reported statistic that approximately 4.5 million people, or 1.5% of the total population, are bitten annually in the United States, and that children under 10 years of age, usually boys, are disproportionately the victims (Gilchrist, J., Sacks, J. J., White, D., & Kresnow, M.-J. (2008). Dog bites: still a problem? Injury Prevention, 14(5), 296–301). Approximately 19% of all dog bite victims require medical attention, and that in the United States about 30-40 people are killed annually by dogs. The rate at which people are bitten by dogs in the USA has not decreased in the last 20 years, but there has been a substantial decrease in the number of incidences involving children.
Local municipalities, concerned with her own dog bite issues, have conducted studies of their own on the demographics of dog bites. Studies have come from Baltimore, Milwaukee, and New York and St. Louis. Another very recent (2014) regional study collected information pertaining to the demographics of Florida dog bite statistics in Bay County Florida. In this study, data was gathered pertaining to the cause, setting and dog ownership (Cause, setting and ownership analysis of dog bites in Bay County Florida from 2009 – 2010. J. Hatthais, et. al. Zoonoses Public health, 2014 , 12115).
The source of the data came from emergency room records and hospital discharge data. Variables scrutinized included the victim’s age and gender, the cause of the bite, the setting in which the incident happened, whether the dog was restrained at the time of the incident, and the relationship between the victim and the dog. In total 799 dog bite cases were evaluated.
The most noteworthy results showed that: (a) Boys were 2.5 times more likely to be bitten than girls; (b) Overall, boys between 6 and 14 years were the demographic group most frequently bitten by dogs; (c) Person six years and older were 3.5 times more likely to be bitten by an unfamiliar dog when compared with the dog they knew; (d) Poor behavioral management was the cause for 26% of the incidences followed by protective behavior by the dog (24%); (e) 24% of victims older than 15 years of age, particularly females, were bitten during an attempt to separate dogs that were fighting; (f) Male victims older than 15 years of age were the group most likely to be bitten by an unrestrained dogs off the owner’s property.
The results are suggestive of several dog bite prevention measures, both educational in nature. Namely, education for owners in terms of proper behavioral management of dogs, and teaching children about the circumstances leading to dog bite injury.
Animal behavior dog bite expert witness, Richard Polsky, PhD, has successfully served Florida attorneys both in criminal and civil matters. He is available for consultation in cases that require animal behavior expert opinion.