Objective—To summarize breeds of dogs involved in
fatal human attacks during a 20-year period and to
assess policy implications.
Animals—Dogs for which breed was reported involved
in attacks on humans between 1979 and 1998 that
resulted in human dog bite-related fatalities (DBRF).
Procedure—Data for human DBRF identified previously
for the period of 1979 through 1996 were combined
with human DBRF newly identified for 1997
and 1998. Human DBRF were identified by searching
news accounts and by use of The Humane Society of
the United States' registry databank.
Results—During 1997 and 1998, at least 27 people died
of dog bite attacks (18 in 1997 and 9 in 1998). At least
25 breeds of dogs have been involved in 238 human
DBRF during the past 20 years. Pit bull-type dogs and
Rottweilers were involved in more than half of these
deaths. Of 227 reports with relevant data, 55 (24%)
human deaths involved unrestrained dogs off their owners'
property, 133 (58%) involved unrestrained dogs on
their owners' property, 38 (17%) involved restrained
dogs on their owners' property, and 1 (< 1%) involved a
restrained dog off its owner's property.
Conclusions—Although fatal attacks on humans
appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type
dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and
cause fatalities at higher rates. Because of difficulties
inherent in determining a dog's breed with certainty,
enforcement of breed-specific ordinances raises constitutional
and practical issues. Fatal attacks represent
a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and,
therefore, should not be the primary factor driving
public policy concerning dangerous dogs. Many practical
alternatives to breed-specific ordinances exist and
hold promise for prevention of dog bites. (J Am Vet
Med Assoc 2000;217:836–840)
Objective—To examine potentially preventable factors in human dog bite–related fatalities (DBRFs) on the basis of data from sources that were more complete, verifiable, and accurate than media reports used in previous studies.
Design—Prospective case series.
Sample—256 DBRFs occurring in the United States from 2000 to 2009.
Procedures—DBRFs were identified from media reports and detailed histories were compiled on the basis of reports from homicide detectives, animal control reports, and interviews with investigators for coding and descriptive analysis.
Results—Major co-occurrent factors for the 256 DBRFs included absence of an able-bodied person to intervene (n = 223 [87.1%]), incidental or no familiar relationship of victims with dogs (218 [85.2%]), owner failure to neuter dogs (216 [84.4%]), compromised ability of victims to interact appropriately with dogs (198 [77.4%]), dogs kept isolated from regular positive human interactions versus family dogs (195 [76.2%]), owners’ prior mismanagement of dogs (96 [37.5%]), and owners’ history of abuse or neglect of dogs (54 [21.1%]). Four or more of these factors co-occurred in 206 (80.5%) deaths. For 401 dogs described in various media accounts, reported breed differed for 124 (30.9%); for 346 dogs with both media and animal control breed reports, breed differed for 139 (40.2%). Valid breed determination was possible for only 45 (17.6%) DBRFs; 20 breeds, including 2 known mixes, were identified.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most DBRFs were characterized by coincident, preventable factors; breed was not one of these. Study results supported previous recommendations for multifactorial approaches, instead of single-factor solutions such as breed-specific legislation, for dog bite prevention.