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Is There Really A Dog Bite Epidemic?

Updated on September 8, 2012
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Dog Bites and Attacks

It seems that there's always a report here or there about a dog attacking or biting a person- child or adult, but is there a real epidemic of incidents?

Not really.

An epidemic by definition is extremely prevalent, widespread, or rapid spread or increase in the occurrence of something.

In terms of a incident and confrontations between man and dog, there are tons of minor injuries that typically don't even require a band-aid, but no generation has ever encountered a true epidemic of severe or fatal dog attacks. Severe dog attacks have always been unusual occurrences- and fatal dog attacks have always been exceedingly rare occurrences, especially considering the human and dog population.

Although, any case of a fatal dog attack is a tragic occurrence, the number of fatal attacks does not support the claim of an epidemic. The small number of fatal dog attacks has increased only proportionate to the increase in the human and dog populations, so in all reality, there is no epidemic to dog bites or attacks no matter how serious the injury.

U.S. Population/ Fatal Dog Attacks

  • 1950- 151 million people/ 20-22 million dogs/ 10 fatal attacks
  • 1970- 203 million people/ 31 million dogs/ 12 fatal attacks
  • 1980- 226 million people/ 40 million dogs/ 15 fatal attacks
  • 2000- 281 million people/ 60+ million dogs/ 19 fatal attacks

Dog Bite Statistics

Every few years someone new tries to tally up an average of dog bites within the past year, but those statistics are nearly never accurate. If you take 5000 people and ask them if they've been injured by a dog within the past year, and multiple that number by however many people in the country, you're just not going to get a good estimate on the potential dog bites. Or if you go to the local hospitals and gather their numbers for dog related incidents, and do the same thing, it's just not going to be accurate across the board. The numbers are too large and there are just too many commas, leading to a much larger margin of error in calculations.

Plus, most dog accident statistics do not specify the extent of the injury, and most dog incidents are minor band-aid accidents that do not require professional assistance, nor do they include the number of accidents that aren't reported.

Even, the CDC has decided that the number of dog bite accidents are no longer a concern, as in relation to the number of dogs and people in the country, much less world, and the frequency of the interaction between the two, there's just not enough to worry about. Too much time, money, and effort has been spent and used for taking polls and making calculations, that there's just never going to be enough accurate information that will be able to provide accurate statistics for future use.

So, again there's no dog bite or attack epidemic, and the world has never seen one. The instances and occurrences of severe to fatal attacks are merely minute in comparison to the population.

The Breed is the Root Cause of Dog Attacks

As for those people who are a part of the population who believe that the breed of dog is the root cause of the dog attacks, you'll quickly find that the truth is that the frequency and incidence of dog attacks have remained relatively consistent of the last century, regardless of the popularity or involvement of any particular breed of dog. That even goes the same for dogs who have been included in breed bans; those counties and countries who have implemented breed bans and breed specific legislations have not seen any drastic decrease in dog bites or attacks since the implementation.

However, history clearly sows that when a certain breed becomes extremely popular in any given time period, and especially when the breed has been used by substandard owners for negative functions, these breeds will be found reported most often in reported cases of severe to fatal dog attacks.

The circumstance around the attack and the overall popularity of the breed, itself, will have some effect on the general attack reports. And, most people who are adamant that the breed IS the root cause to any attack, are generally uninterested in considering what caused the attack and why it happened. Those people are also, typically, going to over-represent the reported cases of attacks and bites related to those breeds. You'll actually find that reported cases of "pit bulls" involved in dog attacks is not nearly as accurate as most people determined that the breed is the cause would like to believe.

You'll actually find that throughout history, the breeds involved in severe to fatal dog attacks will vary from decade to decade, much less year to year, all depending on the popularity of the breed as well as numerous other variables that are completely unrelated to the breed of dog. 


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    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 8 years ago from Georgia

      Which is exactly what the CDC is trying to show people now. Bites and attacks have more to do with age, whether the dog is spayed/neutered, age, relation to victim, etc. than breed.

    • bspilner profile image

      bspilner 8 years ago from Altanta, Ga.

      I didn't even know such things as breed bans even existed. The first thing that comes to mind is what one of my old college professors used to drill into our heads- "correlation does not equal causation". Just because a certain breed bites somebody doesn't inherently mean that the entire breed will bite people...I find that most bites have nothing to do with the breed and more to do with the human interaction.

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      We seem to get a spate of serious dog attacks reported in the UK and then nothing for quite a while.