Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness For Attorneys

Richard H. Polsky, Ph.D. CDBC
Los Angeles, California

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

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Dog bite hospitalization in California

Statistics resulting from epidemiological studies on the kind of dogs that bite and their victims are plentiful. Examples include the Californiagender and age of the victim, the breed, gender and age of the dog, and features of the setting in which the dog bite incident occurred. Many of these statistics have been duplicated in independent reports. Another line of epidemiological research has looked at the consequences of a dog attack in terms of the severity the injury, the costs involved, and the treatment needed. Reports have been produced often focus on one geographical area, and one report from California that looked at statistics associated with hospitalizations from dog bite injury are worth noting (Feldman, K. et al. Epidemiology of hospitalizations resulting from dog bites in California, 1991-1998 American Journal of Public health 2004, 94, 1940-1941). This study examined dog bite victims who were hospitalized in California between the years of 1991-1998.

Hospital discharge records on dog bite victims were examined to collect information on such variables as the age of the victim, race, cost per hospitalization, incident rate, and location of dog bite wound. The study period covered the years 1991 through 1998. Results showed that a total of 6076 patients were discharged from California hospitals, and there was an average of 835 discharges per year. Average incident rate per year for hospitalization was 2.6 people per 100,000. Children were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized and Asians were the race of people least likely hospitalized. Children 10 years and younger were most likely to be bitten in the head and face in contrast to children older than 10 years who usually sustained dog bite injury to the forearms and in fingers. Mean length of hospital stay for all age groups combined was 3.5 days. The number of days in hospital increased for older victims. In 1998 the cost for an average stay in hospitalization to treat dog bite injury was $7374.

Statistics reported in this paper confirm earlier findings. For example, it is been documented many times that children under 10 years of age are disproportionately represented in dog bite attacks. Hence what happens in California appears to be representative to what happens in other sections in the United States and for that matter other countries as well. How the results on the length of hospitalization and the costs for an acute onset injury like a dog bite compares with findings from other states and with other types of acute onset injuries, like injury sustained in an automobile accident, needs further elaboration. Why Asians were relatively less likely to be hospitalized may stem from cultural attributes of how Asians generally choose to interact with dogs, particularly dogs they do not know, but again this is a finding that is not well understood.


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