Dog and exotic pet bite statistics
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1993:
In our January/February issue, we published Saginaw County Animal Control
division head Mark Wachner’s advice that pit bull terriers trained to fight should be eutha-
nized rather than being put up for adoption, along with Ohio animal health technician
Donna Robb’s account of how a young pit bull she rescued and had apparently successfully
socialized went berserk on Christmas Eve, breaking down a locked door dividing two parts
of her house to kill two cats and a rabbit. We published a letter defending pit bulls in our
March issue, and responded that while some people may be more successful than others in
handling pit bulls (or any kind of dangerous animal), this does not mean we should
encourage anyone to keep any kind of high risk animal as a pet. This brought a barrage of
letters and calls from pit bull fanciers, who swear it’s all a matter of training, that pit bulls
are no more dangerous than any other dog.
As it happens, the editor has kept a file of press accounts of dog attacks and
attacks by exotic pets since 1982––about five years before the public furor over pit bulls
began. (The editor was working on an expose of the exotic cat trade at the time, and had
recently been mauled––separately–– by both an attack-trained German shepherd and a pit
bull who may have been attack-trained, but was kept as a family pet.) Attacks by animals
trained to fight have been excluded; this table includes only attacks by household pets and
strays believed to have been household pets, only one of whom was a pit bull. The “maim-
ings” column records attacks causing permanent disfigurement or loss of use of a limb.
Here’s how the numbers stack up:
Dog and exotic pet bite statistics
Animal type Attacks doing Child Adult Fatalities Maimings
bodily harm victims victims
African lions 3 2 1 0 1
Akitas 2 2 1
Australian shepherds 1 1
Black bears 2
Chows 1 1 1
Coonhounds 1 1
Dobermans 1 1 1
Ferrets 9 8 1 1 3
German shepherds 5 5 2
Gray wolves 2 2 1 1
Huskies 3 3 1
Leopards 2 1 1 1 1
Ligers (lion/tiger cross) 1
Malamutes 2 2 2
Mastiffs 2 1 1 1 1
Mongrels (no type) 1 1 1
Pit bulls 103 43 60 18 35
Pumas 3 2 1 1
Pythons 2 1 1 1
Rottweilers 18 12 6 2 8
Wolf hybrids 9 9 3 6
Of 184 total attacks, 56% involved pit bulls. Of 158 dog attacks, 67% involved
pit bulls. Of total attacks on children, 44% involved pit bulls; of dog attacks on children,
54% involved pit bulls. Of total attacks on adults, 71% involved pit bulls. Of dog attacks
on adults, 87% involved pit bulls. Of fatalities, the category of attack most certain to
make the papers, 52% involved pit bulls. Of dog attack fatalities, 56% involved pit bulls.
Of maimings, 57% involved pit bulls. Of dog attack maimings, 65% involved pit bulls.
The numbers take on even more significance when weighed relative to the popu-
lation of each animal type. The U.S. and Canadian pit bull population is usually estimated
at about 500,000; the Rottweiler population is under 100,000 (of whom 52,000 are regis-
tered by the American Kennel Club); and published estimates of the wolf hybrid popula-
tion range from 100,000 to 300,000. Together, pit bulls, Rottweilers, and wolf hybrids
account for 84% of the dog attacks, 81% of dog attacks on children, 87% of dog attacks
on adults, 68% of fatalities caused by dogs, and 93% of maimings caused by dogs.
Other studies have turned up similar statistics. The Centers for Disease Control
reported in 1989 that of 157 U.S. dog bite fatalities, 1979-1988, 41.6% involved pit bulls.
British researchers found that pit bulls were involved in 125 of 465 serious dog attacks
during 1990. New York City reported in 1988 that pit bulls, only 2% of the city dog pop-
ulation, accounted for 14% of biting incidents (422 of 3,057).
According to the CDC, 70% of dog attack victims are children under age nine.