Friday, January 8, 2010

Reasons for Fatal Dog Attacks

We'd like to let you know about a book that provides very interesting insight into why dogs attack and gives a well-researched perspective on the historical interpretation of dog bite statistics. The book is called the Pit Bull Placebo and the author is Karen Delise. Karen is an author, survivor of a serious dog attack, dog lover and researcher. She has spent many years investigating the factors involved in fatal dog attacks and her previous book: "Fatal Dog Attacks, the stories behind the statistics" gives details and analysis for many attacks. This book is no longer available, but much of the information from Karen's research is now at the website for the National Canine Research Council.

Here is an excerpt from the Pit Bull Placebo:

Few things in life come without some level of risk. Swimming pools, automobiles, household cleaning products, power tools, bicycles, stairs, and dogs all come with a certain level of potential harm. Our lives are comprised of evaluating risks on a daily basis. From how fast we drive our cars or when to cross a busy street, or cordoning off swimming pools and staircases from unsupervised children, we think about or act on the potential danger of things daily. Why then is it so difficult for so many people to understand that this applies to our dogs as well? While dogs are certainly less of a risk factor than automobiles or swimming pools, nevertheless, the same theory applies—dogs are safe when maintained in a responsible manner and when people show a reasonable level of risk assessment. Terrible, unforeseeable accidents will always occur in life, but the point is to strive to make these incidents as rare as possible.

There are presently 73 million dogs in the United States and approximately two dozen human deaths per year are due to dog attacks. In approximately one half to three-quarters (12–18) of these deaths, the victims are young children. However, over 250 children under the age of five die yearly in swimming pools.

Comparing yearly dog bite fatalities to yearly fatalities associated with automobiles, swimming pools or lightning shows that dogs are incredibly low on the list of potential dangers. While the risk of being killed by a dog is extremely low, serious dog bites and attacks obviously present a likelier risk. Both serious and fatal attacks can be reduced by reasonable risk assessment. Owners can reduce the risk of their dog biting someone through dozens of different methods, from educating themselves about canine behavior and enrolling in dog training classes to properly containing and supervising their dogs. Potential victims can also reduce their risk of dog attacks by learning about canine behaviors and how to respond to an aggressive-looking dog. There are literally hundreds of books written on these topics, as well as information presented on the Internet, television and even radio. For those wishing to educate themselves and lower the potential risk associated with dogs, the information is available and highly accessible.


The answers to severe and fatal canine attacks are not to be found in statistics, or in discussing dog breeds, or in recent accounts of dog attacks found in the media. The answers to canine aggression can only be found beginning with an examination of the relationship (or lack of one) between dogs and owners.

If you are interested in reading the whole book you can download a
free PDF or purchase the printed book from Dogwise.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Joan, very nice paper. I honestly don't care about statistics,they can't possibly cover all the variables. And honestly,i don't even think it's fair to compare how humans can become victims. It's a matter of personal responsibility to everyone and everything and that responsibility should include accidents and unnecessary deaths.
    And I endorse this book, it was very informative, it's too bad we can't make it mandatory reading for the media people who cover these events!!