- For purposes of analyzing dog bite data or statistics, there are four classifications for dog bites:
- • Unreported dog bites
- • Minor dog bites
- • Serious to severe dog bites
- • Fatal dog bites
Unreported Dog Bites
In 1994, the CDC conducted a telephone survey of American households in an effort to estimate how many persons had been bitten by a dog in the previous 12 months. In 5,328 completed telephone interviews, a response rate of approximately 56%, respondents reported 196 dog bites to children and adults. The researchers then estimated that there had been 4.7 million dog bites during the 12 months preceding the survey.
There is no national system that collects dog bite data.
Whatever the actual annual number of incidents, researchers agree that a significant number have always gone unreported. This undisputed fact leads to an interesting question. If the person deems it unworthy of either medical attention or an incident report, what then should be the level of public attention? Should society bother itself about encounters that were of such small concern to the victim?
Injuries that have no lasting physical effects: Any bruising and/or break in the skin (scratch or puncture) from a dog's tooth or nail that requires no treatment or a minimum amount of treatment (i.e., wound cleaning, tetanus and/or antibiotics).
At least 90% of all dog bites are classified as minor bites.
Serious / severe bites
Single or multiple bites that result in multiple deep punctures, lacerations or avulsions requiring suturing or surgery, and which may, on rare occasion, require hospitalization. (Also included in this category are less serious bites that have become infected and require hospitalization.)
Between 1 and 10% of all reported dog bites fall in the category of serious/ severe. This has been a consistent result despite the increase or decrease in the overall number of dog bites.
During the past decade, the average number of hospital admissions per year due to dog bite-related injuries:
- • Utah: 10
- • Delaware: 26
- • Hawaii: 29
- • Nevada: 91
- • Colorado: 118
- • Virginia: 125
- • Pennsylvania: 509
- For the years 2001 - 2011, persons going to an emergency room because they had been injured by a dog constituted less than 1.1% of all persons who went to an emergency room because they had suffered any kind of an injury. Further, the dog bite victims were consistently less likely to be hospitalized than the other injured persons who went to emergency rooms. By way of comparison, approximately 7% of all patients who went to an ER because they had been assaulted by another person were admitted to the hospital because of the seriousness of their injuries. By contrast, of the tiny subset of those persons who went to an ER because of a dog bite, fewer than 2% were thereafter hospitalized. (Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Fatal Dog Bites
Dog bite-related human fatalities have always been exceedingly rare, yet they can attract the kind of publicity that creates an impression that they are more prevalent than they actually are.
The small number of fatalities can fluctuate from year to year, and consequently, no single year can be used as an indicator of increasing or decreasing incidence of dog bite-related fatalities.
• In 1990 there were 32
• In 1991 there were 16
• In 1999 there were 27
• In 2000 there were 19
• In 2007 there were 35
• In 2008 there were 24
The interactions between dogs and humans are so numerous, complex, and fluid that no one factor can possibly be considered, in isolation from any other factors, to be the cause of what happened. NCRC investigation of over 47 years (1965-2012), of dog bite-related fatalities in the U.S. has identified the ownership/management practices that are present in the great majority of these rare, and mostly preventable, incidents:
Resident dog – Owners obtaining dogs, and maintaining them as resident dogs, isolated from regular, humane interactions with people, often for negative purposes (i.e. guarding/ protection, fighting, intimidation/status).
Click on the thumbnail to read about the distinction between resident dogs and family pets.
Owner Management & Control of Dogs – Owners failing to humanely and responsibly care for their dogs (chained dogs, loose roaming dogs, cases of abuse/neglect); owners failing to knowledgably supervise interaction between children and dogs.
Reproductive Status of Dog – Owners failing to spay or neuter animals not used for competition, show, or in a responsible breeding program.
There is no scientific evidence that one kind of a dog is more likely to injure a human being than another kind of a dog. This is no evidence that, absent circumstances specifically associated with mating or maternal protectiveness, a dog being intact should be understood as a cause of aggressive behavior toward human beings. And for every dog that injured someone and who had been denied a positive human relationship, untold numbers similarly kept injured no one.
Dogs are individuals, and must be regarded as such. Further, each of these incidents represents a unique calculus of circumstances that we can never completely decipher.