Dogs that engage in serial attacks and rampage attacks are obviously dangerous. A "serial attack" is an instance of a dog injuring someone after having injured a person or an animal on a previous occasion. A "rampage attack" is an instance of a dog attacking multiple people or animals during a single incident. Merritt Clifton, the editor of Animal People, has maintained meticulous logs of dog attacks for many years. He gave Dog Bite Law permission to republish the following information about serial and rampage attacks:

Serial and rampage attack data

© Merritt Clifton, editor, Animal People

Pit bull terriers and Rottweilers together appear to commit about two-thirds of the reported serial attacks on humans (65%), and more than three-fourths of the rampage attacks (79%), ANIMAL PEOPLE has learned, in a review of files on approximately 1,500 dog attacks in cases in which a person was killed or maimed, or police shot the dog.

Serial attacks are defined as instances of a dog injuring someone after having injured a person or an animal on a previous occasion. ANIMAL PEOPLE found that about 5% of the dogs involved in life-threatening or fatal attacks on humans, or shot by police while attacking, had attacked a person or killed a pet on an earlier occasion.

Among the 59 dogs who flunked a second chance after biting a person or killing a pet were 28 pit bulls (48%), 10 Rottweilers (17%), and 21 dogs of 10 other breeds.

The lopsided risk associated with giving pit bulls a second or third chance would be even greater if pit bull advocates are correct in asserting that pit bulls are more likely than other breeds to be killed after their first violent incident--which would mean that relatively few pit bulls get further chances, and that those who do are among the dogs considered least likely to be genuinely dangerous.

However, the rates of flunking second and third chances among pit bulls, Rottweilers, and other breeds were all closely comparable to their overall rates of involvement in life-threatening incidents, fatalities, and police shootings of dogs. This suggests that neither pit bulls nor Rottweilers are subject to statistically quantifiable discrimination in deciding which dogs get extra chances.

Rampage attacks are defined as instances of a dog attacking multiple people or animals during a single incident. About 10% of the dog attack cases in the ANIMAL PEOPLE files involve rampages in which a person is killed or maimed, and/or the dog is shot by police. Of the 153 dogs who rampaged, 89 (58%) were pit bulls; 32 (21%) were Rottweilers; and 32 (21%) were representatives of 14 other large breeds.

No dog smaller than a boxer was involved in a rampage attack, possibly because small dogs are more easily restrained after attacking their first victim.

The serial and rampage attack case accounts were extracted from the ANIMAL PEOPLE archives by volunteer Chrissy Deliyandis, of Freeland, Washington. ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton did the data analysis.

ANIMAL PEOPLE was asked for data on serial and rampage dog attacks at the 2001 No-Kill Conference in Hartford, Connecticut, after presenting an abstract of information from a breed-specific log of life-threatening and fatal dog attacks committed since September 1982 within the U.S. and Canada by dogs who were kept as pets.

Attacks by guard dogs, fighting dogs, and police dogs are excluded from that log, but attacks by eight trained Rottweiler guard dogs were included in the analysis of rampage attacks because six of the dogs were specifically trained to guard family homes, in which they were also household pets, and two were trained to work at places of business in constant contact with the public.

Log totals

Through January 20, 2002, the log of life-threatening and fatal attacks showed that pit bulls had committed 592 (45%) of the 1,301 total attacks qualifying for inclusion, including 280 (21%) of the attacks on children, 222 (60%) of the attacks on adults, 51 (34%) of the fatal attacks, and 321 (45%) of the maimings and disfigurements.

Rottweilers had committed 291 (22%) of the attacks, including 24% of the attacks on children, 63 (17%) of the attacks on adults, 36 (24%) of the fatalities, and 159 (22%) of the maimings and disfigurements.

Combined, pit bulls and Rottweilers had committed 72% of all the attacks, 45% of the attacks on children, 77% of the attacks on adults, 58% of the fatalities, and 67% of the maimings and disfigurements.

In theory, more closely regulating pit bulls and Rottweilers could markedly reduce dog attacks. In practice, breed-specific legislation has rarely succeeded. In Reading, Pennsylvania, however, the city council in early January 2002 renewed an ordinance which requires a special permit to keep any breed of dog which accounted for 40% or more of the dog attacks in the city during the previous year. Pit bulls accounted for 48% of the attacks in 1998, the year the ordinance was first adopted, and accounted for 41% in 2001--but the total number of attacks has fallen from 113 to 56, and the number of pit bull attacks has declined from 54 to 23.