Did you know?
A tough part of our job in an animal ER occurs when we learn that a person has been bitten by a dog either in a direct attack or when trying to break up a fight between two (or more) dogs. The latter is more often the case, and a recent incident lead me to search out an article that came across my desk earlier this year.

The Coalition for Living Safely with Dogs (CLSD) released the results of a study in May on the dog bite incidents in Colorado from July 2007 – July 2008. The CLSD partnered with the Colorado Association of Animal Control Officers (CAACO) for data collection and contracted with Corona Research, Inc. to analyze the bite data and to create a report on the findings. The project was funded by Animal Assistance Foundation. The CLSD says that “this report is the most rigorous study of its type and the first comprehensive collection and analysis through Animal Control.”

I thought I’d share the Key Points and Recommended Actions in this blog. To see the full report you’ll find a link to the PDF document on the CLSD website.

  1. Most dogs do not bite. Less than one-third of one percent of dogs in the reporting area were reported to animal control for biting a human.
  2. Many different types of dogs were involved in reported dog bite incidents. Bites from 129 different breeds of dog were reported to the 17 participating animal control organizations during the one year period of study.
  3. Any dog can bite given certain circumstances.
    • Running at large (unleashed) was the single most common bite circumstance.
    • Many bites were not a result of aggression towards humans, but occurred when a human intervened in fighting or play between dogs.
    • Approximately half of all bites occurred at home, usually when a dog was protecting property, food, or toys.
  4. Whether any breed is more or less likely to bite than any other breed depends on knowing the number of each breed living in Colorado. There are more bites from some breeds than others in the dataset. To draw conclusions about breeds, we need to know whether bites are proportional or disproportional to a breed’s population. At this time, there is no dog census for Colorado.
  5. Adolescent dogs between one and four years of age were responsible for the most bites.
  6. Children (14 and under) were bitten disproportionately to their population; nine and ten year-old boys were the most common victims. Children were bitten twice as often as would be expected given their proportion of the population.

So What, Now What?
There are some obvious conclusions one can draw from these six key points.

  • The worst combination is allowing an adolescent dog to play unsupervised with children 14 and under (especially 9 and and 10 year old boys). Please be sure that proper adult supervision is available to train both the dog and the children about how to “play” with each other.
  • Any dog can bite under certain circumstances. As Veterinary professionals we hear many clients tell us their dog would never bite. The tough part for us is that the response of an animal that is nervous and in pain can be very different than when at home with family. So to protect us and your dog we may choose to muzzle when providing medical care.
  • Never place yourself between fighting dogs. Avoid getting bit by learning how to break up a dog fight. Here are a couple websites with some good ideas.
  • Keep your dog on a leash in a public place.

The moral of the story…stay cool and stay safe.