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Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks

Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks



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Published by Tegenpitjes
September 2000 Object: To summarize breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks during a 20-year period and to assess policy implications
by Jeffrey J. Sacks, MD, MPH; Leslie Sinclair, DVM; Julie Gilchrist, MD;
Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM; Randall Lockwood, PhD
September 2000 Object: To summarize breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks during a 20-year period and to assess policy implications
by Jeffrey J. Sacks, MD, MPH; Leslie Sinclair, DVM; Julie Gilchrist, MD;
Gail C. Golab, PhD, DVM; Randall Lockwood, PhD

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Published by: Tegenpitjes on Jan 12, 2009
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836Vet Med Today: Special ReportJAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000
Special Report
rom 1979 through 1996, dog attacks resulted inmore than 300 human
dog bite-related fatalities(DBRF)
in the United States.
Most victims were chil-dren. Studies indicate that pit bull-type dogs wereinvolved in approximately a third of human DBRFreported during the 12-year period from 1981 through1992, and Rottweilers were responsible for about half of human DBRF reported during the 4 years from 1993through 1996. These data have caused some individu-als to infer that certain breeds of dogs are more likelyto bite than others and should, therefore, be banned orregulated more stringently.
The purposes of the studyreported here were to summarize breeds associatedwith reported human DBRF during a 20-year periodand assess policy implications.
We collected data from
The Humane Society of theUnited States (HSUS)
and media accounts related todog bite attacks and fatalities, using methods from pre-vious studies.
The HSUS maintains a registry of humanDBRF, including date of death, age and sex of decedent,city and state of attack, number and breeds of dogsinvolved, and circumstances relating to the attack. Tosupplement HSUS reports, as in the past, a database
wassearched for accounts of human DBRF that occurred in1997 and 1998. Our search strategy involved scanningthe text of newspapers and periodicals for certain wordsand word combinations likely to represent human DBRFfollowed by a review of articles containing those terms.Data obtained from HSUS and news accounts weremerged to maximize detection of human DBRF andavoid duplicate reports. One new human DBRF from1996 was identified in the 1997 and 1998 reports andwas added to the existing data for 1996.A human DBRF was defined as a human deathcaused by trauma from a dog bite. In addition toexcluding 9 human deaths, as described in previousreports (eg, dying of rabies from a dog bite, stranglingon a leash or scarf pulled by a dog, dying from fire ant
From the Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, US Department of Health andHuman Services, US Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE (MS K-63), Atlanta, GA 30341(Sacks, Gilchrist); The Humane Society of the United States, 2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037 (Sinclair, Lockwood); and theDivision of Education and Research, American Veterinary Medical Association, 1931 N Meacham Rd, Ste 100, Schaumburg, IL 60173(Golab). Dr. Sacks’ present address is the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Controland Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE (MS K-45), Atlanta, GA 30341. Dr. Sinclair’s present address is Shelter Veterinary Services, 9320 JarrettCt, Montgomery Village, MD 20886.Use of trade names and commercial sources is for identification purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the authors or their affili-ated agencies.The authors thank Dr. Suzanne Binder for technical assistance.
Embargoed for Release Until 8
, September 15, 2000
Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacksin the United States between 1979 and 1998
Jeffrey J. Sacks,
; Leslie Sinclair,
; Julie Gilchrist,
;Gail C. Golab,
; Randall Lockwood,
 —To summarize breeds of dogs involved infatal human attacks during a 20-year period and toassess policy implications.
 —Dogs for which breed was reported involvedin attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 thatresulted in human dog bite-related fatalities (DBRF).
 —Data for human DBRF identified previ-ously for the period of 1979 through 1996 were com-bined with human DBRF newly identified for 1997and 1998. Human DBRF were identified by searchingnews accounts and by use of The Humane Society ofthe United States’ registry databank.
 —During 1997 and 1998, at least 27 peopledied of dog bite attacks (18 in 1997 and 9 in 1998). Atleast 25 breeds of dogs have been involved in 238human DBRF during the past 20 years. Pit bull-typedogs and Rottweilers were involved in more than half ofthese deaths. Of 227 reports with relevant data, 55(24%) human deaths involved unrestrained dogs offtheir owners’ property, 133 (58%) involved unrestraineddogs on their owners’ property, 38 (17%) involvedrestrained dogs on their owners’ property, and 1 (
1%)involved a restrained dog off its owner’s property.
 —Although fatal attacks on humansappear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-typedogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite andcause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficultiesinherent in determining a dog’s breed with certainty,enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises con-stitutional and practical issues. Fatal attacks representa small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,therefore, should not be the primary factor drivingpublic policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practi-cal alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist andhold promise for prevention of dog bites. (
J Am Vet Med Asso
JAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000 Vet Med Today: Special Report837
bites after being pushed on a mound by a dog, or dyingfrom a motor vehicle or bicycle crash while beingchased by a dog), for 1997 and 1998, we excluded 3additional deaths: death resulting from infection sec-ondary to a dog bite, death attributable to trauma frombeing knocked over but not bitten, and death resultingfrom myocardial infarction, which was caused by anindividual being chased but not bitten. For the 20-yearstudy, we excluded 4 human deaths from attacks byguard or police dogs “at work” and approximately 90deaths when breed information for the attacking dogwas unavailable; thus, this study included approxi-mately 72% of cases of human DBRF and is notexhaustive.We tallied data in 2 ways to provide alternativesfor breed data interpretation. First, we used a humandeath-based approach in which we counted whether aparticular breed was involved in a death. When multi-ple dogs of the same breed were involved in the samefatal episode, that breed was counted only once (eg, if 10 Akitas attacked and killed a person, that breed wascounted once rather than 10 times). When crossbreddogs were involved in a fatality, each suspected breedin the dog’s lineage was counted once for that episode.Second, we tallied data by dog. When multiple dogs of the same breed were involved in a single incident, eachdog was counted individually. We allocated crossbreddogs into separate breeds and counted them similarly(eg, if 3 Great Dane-Rottweiler crossbreeds attacked aperson, Great Dane was counted 3 times under cross-bred, and Rottweiler was counted 3 times under cross-bred). Data are presented separately for dogs identifiedas pure- and crossbred. Lastly, dogs were classified as towhether they were on or off the owners’ property andrestrained (eg, chained or leashed) or unrestrained atthe time of the attack.
Fatalities during 1997 and 1998
—During 1997and 1998, at least 27 people died as the result of dogbite attacks (18 people in 1997 and 9 in 1998). Of 27human DBRF, 19 (70%) were children (1 was
30 daysold, 3 were between 7 and 11 months old, 9 werebetween 1 and 4 years old, and 6 were between 5 and11 years old), and 8 were adults (ages 17, 44, 64, 70,73, 75, 75, and 87). Approximately half (n = 15 [56%])of the human DBRF were male.Five (19%) deaths involved unrestrained dogs off the owners’ property, 18 (67%) involved unrestraineddogs on the owners’ property, 3 (11%) involvedrestrained dogs on the owners’ property, and 1 (4%)involved a restrained dog off the owners property.Eighteen (67%) deaths involved 1 dog, 5 (19%)involved 2 dogs, and 4 (15%) involved 3 dogs. Sixtypercent of attacks by unrestrained dogs off the owners’property involved more than 1 dog.Fatal attacks were reported from 17 states(California [4 deaths]; Georgia and North Carolina [3each]; Kansas, Texas, and Wisconsin [2 each]; andAlaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Kentucky,Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, SouthDakota, and Tennessee [1 each]).Some breed information was reported for all 27attacks. As in recent years, Rottweilers were the mostcommonly reported breed involved in fatal attacks, fol-lowed by pit bull-type dogs
(Table 1)
. Together, these2 breeds were involved in approximately 60% of human deaths.
Twenty-year data
—Some breed information wasavailable for 238 human DBRF. More than 25 breeds of dogs were involved in DBRF during the past 20 years
(Table 2)
. Of 227 human DBRF for which data were
1979198119831985198719891991199319951997Breed 1980 1982 1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 Total
PurebredPit bull-type2510911*8654*666Rottweiler001131310101039German Shepherd Dog214*114*202017Husky-type212202212115Malamute203102310012Doberman Pinscher01022210019Chow Chow01000230208Great Dane31000001117Saint Bernard12100000037CrossbredWolf-dog hybrid011214122014Mixed-breed031212011112German Shepherd Dog020222012010Pit bull-type010323110010Husky-type01121100006Rottweiler00001101125Alaskan Malamute00000210003Chow Chow00000101103Doberman Pinscher00001000010Saint Bernard00000010001Great Dane00000000010No. deaths for which 102026*242234*242526*27238breed was known*Numbers differ from previous reports because police/guard dogs "at work" were excluded, and 1 new DBRF was identified as occurring in 1996. †A purebred dogand a crossbred dog of this breed were involved in a single fatality; therefore, that breed is counted only once in the total column.
Table 1—Breeds of dogs involved in human dog bite-related fatalities (DBRF) in the United States, by 2-year period, between 1979 and1998. Death-based approach of counting most frequent purebreds and crossbreds involved in 7 or more human DBRF
838Vet Med Today: Special ReportJAVMA, Vol 217, No. 6, September 15, 2000
available, 55 (24%) deaths involved unrestrained dogsoff the owners’ property, 133 (58%) involved unre-strained dogs on the owners’ property, 38 (17%)involved restrained dogs on the owners’ property, and1 (
1%) involved a restrained dog off the ownersproperty.Four hundred three dogs were responsible forthese attacks. There were almost twice as many dogsinvolved in off-owner-property attacks, compared withattacks occurring on the owners’ properties. In 160human deaths, only 1 dog was involved; in 49 deaths,2 dogs were involved; and in 15 deaths, 3 dogs wereinvolved. Four and 7 dogs were involved in 3 deathseach; 5, 6, and 10 dogs were involved in 2 deaths each;and 11 and 14 dogs were responsible for 1 death each.
Ideally, breed-specific bite rates would be calculat-ed to compare breeds and quantify the relative danger-ousness of each breed. For example, 10 fatal attacks byBreed X relative to a population of 10,000 X’s (1/1,000)implies a greater risk than 100 attacks by Breed Y rela-tive to a population of 1,000,000 Ys (0.1/1,000).Without consideration of the population sizes, Breed Ywould be perceived to be the more dangerous breed onthe basis of the number of fatalities.Considering only bites that resulted in fatalities,because they are more easily ascertained than nonfatalbites, the numerator of a dog breed-specific humanDBRF rate requires a complete accounting of humanDBRF as well as an accurate determination of thebreeds involved. Numerator data may be biased for 4reasons. First, the human DBRF reported here are like-ly underestimated; prior work suggests the approachwe used identifies only 74% of actual cases.
Second,to the extent that attacks by 1 breed are more news-worthy than those by other breeds, our methods mayhave resulted in differential ascertainment of fatalitiesby breed. Third, because identification of a dog’s breedmay be subjective (even experts may disagree on thebreed of a particular dog), DBRF may be differentiallyascribed to breeds with a reputation for aggression.Fourth, it is not clear how to count attacks by cross-bred dogs. Ignoring these data underestimates breedinvolvement (29% of attacking dogs were crossbreddogs), whereas including them permits a single dog tobe counted more than once. Therefore, we have elect-ed to present data separately for purebred and cross-bred dogs to demonstrate at least 2 alternative count-ing methods. Relative rankings do not differ greatlywhether one focuses only on purebred dogs or includescrossbred dogs. The crossbreed issue is also problemat-ic when estimating denominators (ie, breed-specificpopulation sizes).The denominator of a dog breed-specific humanDBRF rate requires reliable breed-specific populationdata. Unfortunately, such data are not currently avail-able. Considering American Kennel Club registrationdata
for Rottweilers in parallel with fatality data forthat breed indicates that as the breed has soared in pop-
Death-based approach Dog-based approachBreed Purebred Crossbred Total Purebred Crossbred Total
Pit bull-type6611*76*9820118Rottweiler396*44*60767German Shepherd Dog1711*27*241741Husky-type (includes at least 2 Siberian)1562115621Malamute1231513316Wolf-dog hybrid0141401515Mixed-breed (NOS)0121204747Chow Chow831181321Doberman911012113Saint Bernard718718Great Dane71*7*11213Labrador Retriever145178Akita404404Sled-type (NOS)30312012Bulldog213213Mastiff213415Boxer213415Collie033066Bullmastiff112112Hound-type (NOS)112112Retriever-type (NOS)101101Chesapeake Bay Retriever101101West Highland Terrier (NOS)101101Terrier-type (NOS)101101Japanese Hunting Dog (NOS)101101Newfoundland101101Coonhound101101Sheepdog (NOS)101101Australian Shepherd011033Rhodesian Ridgeback101101Cocker Spaniel101101*A purebred dog and a crossbred dog of this breed were involved in a single fatality; therefore, that breed is counted onlyonce in the total column.NOS
Not otherwise specified.
Table 2—Breeds of dogs involved in human dog bite-related fatalities between 1979 and 1998, usingdeath-based and dog-based approaches

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