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Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009)

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  • 1 Center for Animals and Public Policy, Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01536.
  • | 2 Sue Binder Consulting Inc, 3958 Preston Ct NE, Atlanta, GA 30319.
  • | 3 National Canine Research Council, 433 Pugsley Hill Rd, Amenia, NY 12501.
  • | 4 National Canine Research Council, 433 Pugsley Hill Rd, Amenia, NY 12501.
  • | 5 Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, 10 Chandler St, Boston, MA 02116.

Abstract

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.

Abstract

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.

Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Case Report (PDF 71 kb)

Contributor Notes

The National Canine Research Council supported the efforts of Karen Delise from 2006 to 2011 for assembly of case reports and data abstraction and Kara Gilmore, JD, for assistance with data abstraction and validation from case reports.

Donald Cleary is Director of Communications and Publications at the National Canine Research Council and Treasurer of Animal Farm Foundation, parent organization of the National Canine Research Council.

Presented in part as an oral presentation at the AVMA Annual Convention, Chicago, July 2013.

Address correspondence to Dr. Patronek (gary.patronek@tufts.edu).