Tuesday, December 4, 2012

US Overview of attacks for 2012-early edition

Although this is a little early to try and wrap up the year (and I will have a final tally after 12/31....but we can always hope that nothing happens through the holidays) I thought I would go over the dog bite related fatalities for 2012 and some of the numbers that break out.

The total as of today, 4 December, is thirty one (31) human deaths due to dog bite related injuries.  That does not include one reported death, that of a Postal Worker bitten by a dog in Ohio, because that death was due to a heart attack a number of days after the victim was treated and released from the hospital.  Now, I do sympathize with the victim and his family, and do see that the attack may have contributed to the overall stress on the victim, but until a Medical Examinaer rules that the proximate cause of death was due to dog attack then we will have to leave this particular tragedy chalked up to heart disease, a disease that affects far too many of us.

But back to dogs and humans.  Of the total of 31 human fatalities, 14 were adults.  Of those 14 adults, nine were aged 59 and over.  The youngest adult that died of dog related injuries was 23.

Seventeen children were killed in dog bite related incidents in 2012.  Of the 17, ALL of them were aged six or under.  Only three were over the age of two-there was a single six year old and two four year olds.

Of dogs involved, there were 14 different breeds or identified breed mixes.  The included the following:

Pit Bull type dogs
German Shepherd
Husky
Rottweiler
Golden Retriever
Labrador Retriever
Mastiff
Rhodesian Ridgeback
Alapaha Blueblood Bulldog
American Bulldog
Presa Canario
Hound mix
Cane Corso

There were sevveral dogs that were unidentified: in one case the injuries were caused by a mixed pack of loose, feral dogs.  In one case, still under investigation, the dog is unidentified so far.

The dogs involved have been identified as from a scattering of backgrounds.  Eighteen dogs were described as family dogs.  Six dogs belonged to neighbors.  In one case the dogs were a pack of feral dogs, and in one case the dog is still undetermined (although the primary current suspect is a neighbor's dog).  One dog was known to be an unowned stray, and one dog was a resident dog-living on the property, tossed food from time to time, but not integrated into the family.  In three cases, shocking as it is, the dog(s) involved were dogs taken in by Rescuers.  In the one case I am directly familiar with the Rescuer knew about the prior aggressive behavior of the dog and appears to have let their heart override their head, taking on a dog that was too much for them.  The other cases seem to also be well intentioned people who got in over their skill level, which is why I am very wary when I hear about folks that are trying to "rescue" dogs that have previously shown clear human focused aggression.  I have worked with my share, but there are dogs that even I won't take.

So what does this tell us?

First off, it's KIDS, KIDS, KIDS!  Infants particulary.  As I have stressed in the past, too many of these are tragic but preventable accidents.  Little children should NOT be left unsupervised with a dog, PERIOD.  And that includes small dogs-the most recent fatality in the UK was an eight day old infant killed by a Jack Russell Terrier.  We have had our own cases of small dogs killing infants, cases that also include Jack Russells, Dachshunds, Beagles, and a Pomeranian.

Next, no surprise, is older folks.  Not to be mean here, as I am approaching the potential risk group myself-slowly-but those around 60 and over have a tough time weathering a serious injury, dog related or not.  Older folks are too often health compromised by any number of first-world problems here in the US, problems like heart issues, physical disabilities, increased vulnerability to injury and, due to longer lives, a larger likelihood of being physically unable to fight off a determined animal.

Who owns the dogs?  Usually, according to the numbers, the family of the person killed.  Next up is a close neighbor.  That relates directly to the number of children killed, since the family dog or the neighbor's dog are the two most likely dogs a child will encounter, especially an infant.  Dogs belonging to grandparents or other family not living with the child full time are the most likely of the family dogs to have a negative encounter, whether a full fatality or a simple dog bite.  This usually indicates a lack of frequent social contact between the dog and the particular child, coupled with a relaxation of supervision because the dog is seen as part of the family.

The stray factor?  Only one case involved known strays, the case of the roaming pack of feral dogs.  These attacks are really rare, so if you are not bitten by your own dog or your neighbor's dog you arre pretty much in the clear.  The idea of free-roaming killer strays is just not supported by the data.

The takeaway from this recap?

1) SUPERVISE YOUR DOGS AND KIDS.

2) Your family dog is the most likely threat-and a threat you can do something about.  If your family pet shows aggressive behavior, especially if children are around, seek professional help.  Solve the problem before it solves your childcare issues.

3) There IS NO PARTICULAR KILLER DOG.  Any dog that has teeth can be a problem.  The issue is behavior, not breed.

4) With 31 deaths out of a US population of 300 million, dogs arre still safer than cars, boats, baloons and bathtubs.  Don't freak out.

And Rescuers, remember: Rescue and Rehabilitation is not a contest, or a proving ground for "bravery".  Don't let your heart override your skills.  There are too many dogs to save to take a risk on a dog that is a clear danger you are unprepared for.  Scars are not medals.  Caution is not a sign of weakness.

4 comments:

  1. What do you do when someone you know has an aggressive-type dog, and yet they see it as no problem, that the dog is just "protecting" them? Someone is going to get bitten, I know it - and it could possibly be me.

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  2. Yep, dogs & kids - especially younger ones - can be like fire and kerosene. Adults too often just take for granted that kids & dogs are all Timmy & Lassie. I noticed that no small breed dogs were responsible for fatalities in the U.S. according to this summary. I am seeing a cocker spaniel & child this evening (they are both 3 years) because the dog has been growling when the toddler gets too close. The fact that the child is able to get too close says a lot.

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    1. "We have had our own cases of small dogs killing infants, cases that also include Jack Russells, Dachshunds, Beagles, and a Pomeranian." Mr. Crosby mentioned these small breeds, implying that they killed infants in the past, not this year. I remember hearing about a large Pomeranian who killed an infant (the child's caregivers had stepped out of the room; the parents were away); I think it was in California, though I'm not sure, this was a few years back.

      I would not say that the cocker spaniel you saw this evening is going to kill the child; the cocker is trying to warn the child not to pester him/her; rather than striking without warning. However, the child's parents should be there to supervise and tell their toddler to back off!
      I had a Basset Hound as a child who I loved dearly and wanted to hug all the time. She usually let me pet her and hug her, but when she was tired of my hugging her, she would let out a small growl or grumble. I would instantly desist; and we never had any problems or conflict; and I was glad that she did signal her discomfort rather than snap or nip.

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  3. I don't think you can totally reject the breed theory. There are some breeds that seem prone to nip (chows) while others seem to hold on and shake (pit bulls). I would think if other traits and characteristics can be part of the breed than why not also aggressive tendencies? Besides, there are lots of severe attacks that don't lead to deaths. I have a friend that was attacked by her pit mix. She lived so would not make the stats, but she would have died if her neighbor hadn't shot the dog and saved her. I used to have a German Shorthair Pointer (very sweet dog) that was insane about chasing birds and would naturally point and even flush coveys of quail at me even though I never hunted or trained her. I had gotten her as a puppy from someone who also never hunted with the mother. How can this be in the genes but not aggressiveness? If a dog breed is bred specifically for fighting is there no instinct in the genes?

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