Dog Bite | Animal Behavior Expert Witness

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Animal behavior expert on dog bite attacks

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

“Bringing the science of animal behavior to attorneys”

Recent fatal dog attack statistics in the United States

Approximately 30-40 fatal dog attacks on people are recorded each year in the United States. Most animal behavior experts believe that the majority of these instances are Recent fatal dog attack statisticshighly preventable. This belief was again reiterated that in a recent paper that now stands as the most definitive research about recent fatal dog attack statistics in the United States (Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite -related fatalities in the United States (2000-2009); Gary Patronek, et al. Journal American Veterinary Medical Association 2013, 243, 1726-1736.)

Patronek and colleagues conducted a remarkably thorough investigation of dog bite related fatalities in the United States that occurred between 2000-2009. Analysis gleaned factors associated with the victim and dog in each of the 256 instances studied. These included: age and gender the victim, relationship of the victim to the dog, whether the victim had a compromise ability to stop the attack, the presence of an able-bodied adult able to intervene at the time of the incident, duration of ownership, number of dogs involved with the incident in their gender, status of the dog in the household, location where the dog was kept, location of the incident, evidence of mismanagement by the owner, history of neglect or abuse of the dog, and whether the owner was present at the time of the incident.

Summary of recent fatal dog attack statistics in the United States

  • 28.9% of the incidences occurred when the dog was tied to a chain;
  • 76.2% of the incidences involved a resident dog (a resident dog was defined as one which basically was kept in the yard therefore lacking the quality of human social contact afforded dogs classified as a family dog);
  • 78% of the dogs were owned for over 90 days;
  • 65% of the dogs were kept outside either in a fenced yard, loose in an unfenced yard, roaming or in a pan, or on a chain;
  • 37% of the incidences involved mismanagement by the owner. Mismanagement by the owner was that the owner allowed the dog to be a danger to others due to the fact that the dog had been involved in previous bite incidences or had been running at large;
  • 66% of the dogs had been neglected or abused by the owner. Neglect and abuse by the owner was defined as incidences in which the dog was not given access to shelter, food, water or shade, dogs with untreated medical condition,, a dog used for fighting, sexually abused or beaten;
  • 37% of the incidences there was evidence indicating that the owner caretaker knew about the dangerous propensities in the dog or that the dog had a history of running loose;
  • 87% of the instances involved a male dog, and in most instances (84%) the dog or dogs involved were reproductively intact;
  • No breed or breed-type was disproportionately associated with any of the above mentioned factors.

Moreover, strong associations were found between some findings. That is, there was covariance between several factors. For example, in the 256 instances studied, 33% of the had five factors present, 23% had six factors present, 6% had seven factors present, and 17% had at least four factors present. Covariance means that the same factors were common to a given instance.

The factors most common to any given instance were: (a) the victim having no familiar relationship to the dog; (b) no able-bodied person being present during the incident; (c) the victim was compromised; (d) the dog was not neutered; (e) evidence of mismanagement of the dog; (f) abuse of the dog by the owner; (g) the victim had no association with the dog involved in the incident.

The authors conclude that the factors most commonly associated with fatal dog attacks are easily preventable and that prevention steps should focus on eliminating  or controlling those factors associated with fatal dog attacks rather than focusing on the elimination or control of any particular breed.

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