There have been many news reports about deaths caused by dogs in the USA. The attention given to the homicides has put the spotlight on pit bulls and Rottweilers. There is a very good reason for focusing on these two breeds: in recent years, they have usually been the number one and number two canine killers of humans. (See The breeds most likely to kill.) Furthermore, a recent study by hospital physicians also has established that attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. (Read the abstract.)
However, one must differentiate between canine homicides and dog bites. They are hardly the same. For the 30 to 35 canine homicides per year, there are more than 4.5 million bites, with 850,000 of the bite victims requiring medical attention. Pit bulls certainly do cause the worst bites and the highest number of homicides, but they and Rottweilers are not the cause of all dog bites. The dog bite epidemic involves all dogs and all dog owners. While pit bulls and Rottweilers inflict a disproportionate number of serious and even fatal injuries, the dog bite epidemic involves many different breeds, and results from many different causes.
To reduce dog bites, we must address all of the reasons for the epidemic. They include things like underfunding of animal control departments, and failure to educate children and dog owners. Efforts should not be limited to only banning breeds, or only reducing the population of breeds, or only increasing criminal penalties when dogs bite. The war on this epidemic must be comprehensive.
For more information on addressing the entirely of the dog bite problem, see Attorney Kenneth M. Phillips’ 10-point plan for Preventing Dog Bites.