As of May 25, 2013, the USA death count from dogs in 2013 is 14. Of these, 13 people were killed by pit bulls. In recent years, the dogs responsible for the bulk of the homicides are pit bulls and Rottweilers:
“Studies indicate that pit bull-type dogs were involved in approximately a third of human DBRF (i.e., dog bite related fatalities) reported during the 12-year period from 1981 through1992, and Rottweilers were responsible for about half of human DBRF reported during the 4 years from 1993 through 1996….[T]he data indicate that Rottweilers and pit bull-type dogs accounted for 67% of human DBRF in the United States between 1997 and 1998. It is extremely unlikely that they accounted for anywhere near 60% of dogs in the United States during that same period and, thus, there appears to be a breed-specific problem with fatalities.” (Sacks JJ, Sinclair L, Gilchrist J, Golab GC, Lockwood R. Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998. JAVMA 2000;217:836-840.)
The Clifton study of attacks from 1982 through 2006 produced similar results. According to Clifton study, pit bulls, Rottweilers, Presa Canarios and their mixes were responsible for 65% of the canine homicides that occurred during a period of 24 years in the USA. (Clifton, Dog attack deaths and maimings, U.S. & Canada, September 1982 to November 13, 2006; click here to read it.)
Other breeds were also responsible for homicides, but to a much lesser extent. A 1997 study of dog bite fatalities in the years 1979 through 1996 revealed that the following breeds had killed one or more persons: pit bulls, Rottweilers, German shepherds, huskies, Alaskan malamutes, Doberman pinschers, chows, Great Danes, St. Bernards and Akitas. (Dog Bite Related Fatalities,” Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, May 30, 1997, Vol. 46, No. 21, pp. 463 et. seq.) Since 1975, fatal attacks have been attributed to dogs from at least 30 breeds.
The most horrifying example of the lack of breed predictability is the October 2000 death of a 6-week-old baby, which was killed by her family’s Pomeranian dog. The average weight of a Pomeranian is about 4 pounds, and they are not thought of as a dangerous breed. Note, however, that they were bred to be watchdogs! The baby’s uncle left the infant and the dog on a bed while the uncle prepared her bottle in the kitchen. Upon his return, the dog was mauling the baby, who died shortly afterwards. (“Baby Girl Killed by Family Dog,” Los Angeles Times, Monday, October 9, 2000, Home Edition, Metro Section, Page B-5.)
In Canine homicides and the dog bite epidemic: do not confuse them, it has been pointed out that the dog bite epidemic as a whole involves all dogs and all dog owners, not just the breeds most likely to kill. In all fairness, therefore, it must be noted that:
- Any dog, treated harshly or trained to attack, may bite a person. Any dog can be turned into a dangerous dog. The owner or handler most often is responsible for making a dog into something dangerous.
- An irresponsible owner or dog handler might create a situation that places another person in danger by a dog, without the dog itself being dangerous, as in the case of the Pomeranian that killed the infant (see above).
- Any individual dog may be a good, loving pet, even though its breed is considered to be potentially dangerous. A responsible owner can win the love and respect of a dog, no matter its breed. One cannot look at an individual dog, recognize its breed, and then state whether or not it is going to attack.
To learn more about dog attacks, see Why dogs bite people To learn about how to take some of the bite out of the dog bite epidemic, see Attorney Kenneth Phillips’ 10-point plan for Preventing Dog Bites.