According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 4.5 million Americans are bitten by dogs annually, and half of those bitten are children. One in five bitten, or approximately 885,000, need medical attention for their dog bite injuries, and 50% of those are children. Last year, over 27,000 people were required to undergo reconstructive surgery to treat injuries suffered from dog bites. Children ages 5-9 years are most likely to be bitten.
DogsBite.org reports that on a daily basis, 1000 Americans need emergency medical treatment for a dog bite injury. For a 30 year period from 1982 through 2012, a combination of large “molasser” breeds, including pit bulls, Rottweilers, presa canaries, cane corsos, mastiffs, dogo argentinos and fila brasieros accounted for:
• 79% of attacks causing injuries;
• 72% of attacks on children;
• 85% of attacks on adults;
• 69% of fatal attacks; and
• 77% of maimings.
Pit bulls accounted for almost 60% of fatal dog bite injuries (55 of 88) for a three year period from January of 2006 through the end of December 2008, followed by Rottweilers who were responsible for 14% of these injuries. DogsBite.org also determined that pit bulls are responsible for a large majority of off property attacks that result in deaths—pit bulls were responsible for 81% of these attacks. From 2005 through 2012, pit bulls and Rottweilers were responsible for 73% of fatal dog bite cases recorded. A report from Animal People, which included data from the United States and Canada from 1982 through 2012, shows that pit bulls caused 245 and rottweilers 84 of a reported 497 total fatal attacks.
There are at least three reasons that pit bulls are more dangerous that other dog breeds. Unlike other types of dogs, pit bulls often fail to demonstrate their intention to attack; they have a lethal style of attack of “holding and shaking”; and pit bulls attempt to inflict maximum injury, known as “gameness.”
Generally speaking, dogs that bite are 6.6 times more likely to be male than female, 2 ½ more times more likely not be neutered, and almost 3 times as likely to be chained as unchained.
Under New York State law, in order to recover against the owner of a dog (or the property owner where the dog is kept), you must be able to prove that the dog owner or property owner “knew or should have known” of the “vicious propensities” of the dog. This means that you must be able to prove, for example, that the dog had previously bitten someone else, or demonstrated dangerous tendencies previously, such as growling at other people, showing his or her teeth, jumping on people in a menacing fashion, or showing other behavior which would put the dog owner or property owner “on notice” that the dog was dangerous.
The CDC provides basic safety advice to provide to children (which is also applicable to adults, of course) when approaching an unfamiliar dog, including:
• Not petting an unfamiliar dog without allowing it to sniff you first;
• Not disturbing a dog who is sleeping, eating, or caring for puppies;
• Avoiding direct eye contact with the dog;
• If knocked over by the dog, roll into a ball and be still; and
• Remaining motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog.