Dog bite

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Dog bite
USN Medic Louis Kost gets attacked by Bruno crop retouch.tif
Military working dog training to attack by biting
SpecialtyEmergency medicine, plastic surgery

A dog bite is a bite inflicted upon a person or another animal by a dog. More than one successive bite is often considered as a dog attack. The majority of dog bites do not result in injury, disfigurement, infection or permanent disability, but some can result in serious complications. Another type of dog bite is the "soft bite" displayed by well-trained dogs, by puppies, and in non-aggressive play.[1] Situations in which dog bites occur include dog fighting, mistreatment, trained dogs acting as guard or military animals, provoked or unprovoked.[2]

There is considerable debate on whether or not certain breeds of dogs are inherently more prone to commit attacks causing serious injury (i.e., so driven by instinct and breeding that, under certain circumstances, they are exceedingly likely to attempt or commit dangerous attacks). Regardless of the breed of the dog, it is recognized that the risk of dangerous dog attacks can be greatly increased by human actions (such as neglect or fight training) or inactions (as carelessness in confinement and control).

Significant dog bites affect tens of millions of people globally each year.[3] It is estimated that 2% of the U.S. population, 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs each year.[4] Most bites occur in children.[5] In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[6] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner's property.[6] Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.[5]

Health effects[edit]

Wound on a child received from a dog bite

Rabies results in the death of approximately 55,000 people a year, with most of the causes due to dog bites.[3] Capnocytophaga canimorsus, MRSA, tetanus, and Pasteurella can be transmitted from a dog to someone bitten by the dog.[7] Bergeyella zoohelcum is an emerging infection transmitted through dog bites.[8] Infection with B. zoohelcum from dog bites can lead to bacteremia.[9]


Even without provocation, some dogs will bite.[10][11]


All dog breeds can inflict a bite.[5] Breed is not an accurate predictor of whether or not a dog will bite.[12] In the US pit bull-type and Rottweilers most frequently are identified breeds in cases of severe bites.[5][12] This may be due to their size. These breeds are more frequently owned by people involved in crime.[12]

In a study comparing media accounts of 256 dog bite related deaths, when a strict definition was used ("documented pedigree, parentage information, or DNA test results or on the basis of concordance among media breed descriptor, animal control breed descriptor, and the veterinarian-assigned breed from a photograph") the resulting 45 dogs comprised 20 recognized breeds and 2 known crosses. The study also published information comparing when multiple media reports (or media reports compared with animal control reports) differed in reporting the breeds. When using a strict definition ('Rottweiler' is NOT equal to 'Rottweiler-mix') 30%-40% of the reports varied. When using a less strict definition ('Rottweiler' and 'Rottweiler-mix' ARE equal enough) only 12%-15% of the reports varied.[13]

A 2000 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports of 327 people killed by dogs "pit bull terrier" or mixes thereof were involved in 76 cases. The breed with the next-highest number of attributed deaths was the Rottweiler and mixes thereof, with 44 fatalities.[14] The American Veterinary Medical Association released a statement that this study "cannot be used to infer any breed specific risk for dog bite fatalities".[14] These figures reporting certain breeds as being more prone to biting has found those to be the breeds in the greatest population where the dog bites are reported.

A 2015 study in Ireland found that dog bite injuries greatly increased since the introduction of legislation targeting specific dog breeds.[15] This study also suggested that targeting dog breeds may actually contribute to increases in dog-bite hospitalisations through the reinforcing of incorrect stereotypes of risk being determined by breed.[15] The study reported that as a result of targeting dog breeds, stereotypes of the dangerousness of certain breeds and assuming the safety of others simply due to their breed may result in people incorrectly interacting with dogs from both categories.[15]


Legislative bodies have addressed concerns about dog bites that include licensing laws, statutes outlawing organized dogfights, and leash laws. Breed-Specific Legislation (BSL), has been enacted in some areas limiting the ownership and activities of dogs perceived to be more likely to bite and attack.[16][17][18] [19] Dog breeds targeted by breed-specific regulations include Rottweilers, American Staffordshire Bull Terriers ("Pit Bulls"), Chow Chows, German Shepherd Dogs, and Doberman Pinschers. There is no evidence that breed-specific laws make communities safer for people or companion animals.[2]

Other measures in preventing dog bites are signage ("Beware of Dog") and locked dog enclosures.[2] Dog owners often oppose protective regulations in the courts claiming either that the regulations will not prevent bites and attacks and/or their rights as dog owners are being infringed.[20][21][22]

A dog's thick fur protects it to some degree from the bite of another dog.[23]

Human activities may increase the risk of a dog bite as does age, height, and movement. The CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association have published recommendations which encourage those that are around dogs to:

  • not approach an unfamiliar dog[24][25]
  • not run from a dog
  • remain motionless when approached by an unfamiliar dog
  • curl into a ball, while protecting your head and ears if knocked over
  • not panic or make loud noises
  • report dogs that are behaving strangely
  • do not disturb a dog that is caring for puppies
  • not pet a strange dog
  • not encourage your dog to play aggressively
  • not allow small children to play with a dog unsupervised[25]
  • avoid the dog if it is ill
  • avoid waking the dog – call the dog by name[citation needed]
  • do not retrieve objects from the dog's mouth
  • avoid face-to-face interaction with the dog[citation needed]
  • not disturb the dog while it is eating
  • reduce the dog's interaction with children[26]
  • not attempt to break up a dog fight[27]

Part of the effort to reduce the prevalence of dog bite injuries has involved the passage of breed-specific laws, intended to reduce the ownership of dog breeds that are considered more likely to bite or to cause serious injury in the event of a bite.[2] Controversy exists on whether or not certain breeds of dogs are more prone to bite than others. Although some research suggests that breed-specific legislation is not completely effective in preventing dog bites, efforts to establish regulations limiting dogs that bite is ongoing.[2] The rights of animals is often in question. The targeting of specific dog breed creates stereotypes. This influences the perceived risk of sustaining a bite from a dog of a particular breed.[15]

Dog behavior[edit]

In isolation, predatory behaviors are rarely the cause of an attack on a human.[28] Predatory aggression is more commonly involved as a contributing factor for example in attacks by multiple dogs; a "pack kill instinct" may arise if multiple dogs are involved in an attack.[29][30]


The risk of a serious infection can be reduced by cleaning the wound and getting appropriate health care treatment.

Local animal control agencies or police are sometimes able to capture the animal and determine whether or not it is infected with rabies. This is important if the dog appears sick or is acting strangely.[25]


Significant dog bites affect tens of millions of people globally each year.[3] It is estimated that 1.5–2 percent of the US population, from 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs yearly.[31] Pit bulls bit and killed 21 people during the 1980s.[32][4] Most bites occur in children.[5] In the 1980s and 1990s the US averaged 17 fatalities per year, while in the 2000s this has increased to 26.[6] 77% of dog bites are from the pet of family or friends, and 50% of attacks occur on the dog owner's property.[6] Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.[5] Young children are sustain bites by familiar or family dogs during normal activities. Some people, like the very young or the very old are more susceptible to being bitten by a dog.[26]

More serious injuries from dogs are often described in the media.[33][2] In 2010, more people were killed by dogs (34) than were hit by lightning (29).[34][35] Emergency department visits and treatment by those bitten number in the thousands.[36]

In a study of 1616 dog attacks treated by the emergency department staff at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, 58% of all pediatric patients bitten by dogs needed treatment for lacerations and 5.5% of all those treated required an operation to make repairs. Very young children (infants) were more than six times more likely to bitten by a family pet and over six times more likely to sustain injuries in their neck and head. Children aged five and younger needed treatment and repair 62% of the time. Those dogs identified as Pit bulls were implicated in 50% of the bites needing surgical treatment of the child. Dogs identified as pit bulls were more likely to make multiple bites in different body areas of the children.[37]


About 5,900 Austrians are treated annually after being bitten by dogs. One fifth of those injured are children.[38]

United States[edit]

In the United States, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Approximately twenty percent of dog bites become infected.[39]

Society and culture[edit]

Legal issues[edit]

Dog owners may be liable for the bites and injuries that their dog causes to people or other dogs. In addition, states and local governments have passed laws and ordinances that allow the government to take action against dogs that are considered dangerous.[40][41][42][43] In some cases, a dog owner may be criminally prosecuted for a dog attack on another person.[44][11] Homeowner's insurance policies typically provide some liability coverage for the policyholder's dog biting a person.

All states recognize that a dog owner may be potentially liable for dog bites. Depending upon the state, the rules for when a dog owner may be liable for a bite will vary. Models of liability for dog bites fall into three broad categories:[45]

  • Common law. At common law, a dog owner can be held liable for the injury caused by a dog that the owner knows, or has reason to know, may be dangerous. Many common law jurisdictions have historically recognized a "one bite" rule, meaning that absent information that suggests that a dog may be unusually dangerous to others, a dog owner cannot be held liable for the first bite injury caused by their dog.
  • Strict liability. States that impose strict liability make the owner of a dog liable for injuries caused by a dog, without further consideration of the facts. Strict liability laws may require that the person seeking damages for a dog bite prove that they were acting peacefully and lawfully at the time of the bite. The law may also recognize a limited range of defenses to liability, such as the dog owner's successfully proving that the injured person was trespassing at the time of the injury or had engaged in conduct that provoked the attack.
  • Mixed law. many states take a mixed approach, passing statutes that are based upon the common law but that add additional elements that must be proved for a dog bite injury to succeed in an injury claim, or provide defenses not available at common law.

States that have enacted legislation that assigns liability include Michigan,[46] Rhode Island,[47] Florida,[48] California,[49][50] and Texas.[43] Connecticut's dog bite statute provides for strict liability in most situations, subject to exceptions if the person bitten by the dog was trespassing or involved in a tort, or was teasing, abusing, or tormenting the dog.[51][52]

In modern times, the United States has not been receptive to the idea that a dog, itself, can be criminally liable.[53] A California court explained that, although the tendency to anthropomorphize animals is understandable, especially with beloved pets like dogs, the law does not recognize dogs as having the mental state that can incur criminal liability. That is, although dogs and other animals may have the capacity to commit vicious and violent acts, they do not possess the legal ability to commit crimes.[54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Reinforce Your Dog's Bite Inhibition".
  2. ^ a b c d e f Weiss, Linda S. (2001). "Breed-Specific Legislation in the United States". Animal Legal & Historical Center. Michigan State University. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "Animal bites Fact sheet N°373". World Health Organization. February 2013. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  4. ^ a b "Dog Bite Prevention". CDC. Archived from the original on 1 May 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Ellis, R; Ellis, C (2014). "Dog and cat bites". American Family Physician. 90 (4): 239–43. PMID 25250997.
  6. ^ a b c d Statistics about dog bites in the USA and elsewhere[unreliable source?]
  7. ^ Manning, S. E; Rupprecht, C. E; Fishbein, D; Hanlon, C. A; Lumlertdacha, B; Guerra, M; Meltzer, M. I; Dhankhar, P; Vaidya, S. A; Jenkins, S. R; Sun, B; Hull, H. F; Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices Centers for Disease Control Prevention (2008). "Human rabies prevention--United States, 2008: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 57 (RR-3): 1–28. PMID 18496505.  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  8. ^ Chen, Yili; Liao, Kang; Ai, Lu; Guo, Penghao; Huang, Han; Wu, Zhongwen; Liu, Min (2017). "Bacteremia caused by Bergeyella zoohelcum in an infective endocarditis patient: Case report and review of literature". BMC Infectious Diseases. 17 (1): 271. doi:10.1186/s12879-017-2391-z. PMC 5389159. PMID 28403835.
  9. ^ Lin, Wei-Ru; Chen, Yao-Shen; Liu, Yung-Ching (2007). "Cellulitis and Bacteremia Caused by Bergeyella zoohelcum". Journal of the Formosan Medical Association. 106 (7): 573–576. doi:10.1016/s0929-6646(07)60008-4. PMID 17660147.
  10. ^ "Reinforce Your Dog's Bite Inhibition". Whole Dog Journal. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  11. ^ a b Sytsma, Craig (1 August 2014). "Couple Whose Dogs Fatally Mauled Jogger Charged With Murder". CBSDetroit. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "Dog Bite Risk and Prevention: The Role of Breed". American Veterinary Medical Association. March 12, 2015.
  13. ^ Patronek, Gary J; Sacks, Jeffrey J; Delise, Karen M; Cleary, Donald V; Marder, Amy R (2013). "Co-occurrence of potentially preventable factors in 256 dog bite–related fatalities in the United States (2000–2009)". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 243 (12): 1726–1736. doi:10.2460/javma.243.12.1726. PMID 24299544.
  14. ^ a b Sacks, Jeffrey J; Sinclair, Leslie; Gilchrist, Julie; Golab, Gail C; Lockwood, Randall (2000). "Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998". Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. 217 (6): 836–840. doi:10.2460/javma.2000.217.836.
  15. ^ a b c d Súilleabháin, Páraic Ó (2015). "Human hospitalisations due to dog bites in Ireland (1998–2013): Implications for current breed specific legislation". The Veterinary Journal. 204 (3): 357–359. doi:10.1016/j.tvjl.2015.04.021. PMID 25957919.
  16. ^[full citation needed]
  17. ^[full citation needed]
  18. ^[full citation needed]
  19. ^[full citation needed]
  20. ^[full citation needed]
  21. ^[full citation needed]
  22. ^[full citation needed]
  23. ^ Miklósi, Ádám (2007). "Dogs in anthropogenic environments: Society and family". Dog Behaviour, Evolution, and Cognition. pp. 68–96. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199295852.003.0003. ISBN 9780199295852.
  24. ^ Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) (1997). "Dog-bite-related fatalities--United States, 1995-1996". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 46 (21): 463–7. PMID 9182209.
  25. ^ a b c "Preventing Dog Bites". Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. May 18, 2015. Retrieved April 25, 2017.  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  26. ^ a b "Dog Bite Prevention". American Veterinary Medical Association. 2017. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  27. ^ "Pet Safety: How to Prevent Dog Bites". Berkeley Wellness. University of California. 22 June 2015. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  28. ^ Lindsay, Steven R. (2001). "Social Competition and Aggression". Handbook of Applied Dog Behavior and Training, Volume Two. pp. 229–72. doi:10.1002/9780470376997.ch8. ISBN 9780470376997.
  29. ^ Kneafsey, B; Condon, K.C (1995). "Severe dog-bite injuries, introducing the concept of pack attack: A literature review and seven case reports". Injury. 26 (1): 37–41. doi:10.1016/0020-1383(95)90550-H. PMID 7868208.
  30. ^ Avis, Simon P (1999). "Dog Pack Attack: Hunting Humans". The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. 20 (3): 243–246. doi:10.1097/00000433-199909000-00005.
  31. ^ Gilchrist, J; Sacks, J J; White, D; Kresnow, M-J (2008). "Dog bites: Still a problem?". Injury Prevention. 14 (5): 296–301. doi:10.1136/ip.2007.016220. PMID 18836045.
  32. ^[full citation needed]
  33. ^ Reuters (2004-10-13). "Stray dog pack attacks Albanian town". IOL. Retrieved 2008-01-21. An Albanian town had to call in police and hunters after a pack of 200 stray mountain dogs attacked at least nine people. Headed by a clearly identifiable leader, the snarling pack overran the main street of the small northern town of Mamurras, its mayor said on Wednesday. "Even in the movies I have never seen a horde of 200 stray dogs from the mountains attacking people in the middle of a town," Anton Frroku said on Wednesday. He said the dogs bit at least nine people, aged from 20 to 60, dragging them to the ground and inflicting serious wounds.
  34. ^ "CHART: Only 15 Americans Died From Terrorism Last Year — Fewer Than From Dog Bites Or Lightning Strikes".
  35. ^ "Injury Facts Chart". National Safety Council. Retrieved 2015-04-09.
  36. ^ Lin, Wei-Ru; Chen, Yao-Shen; Liu, Yung-Ching (2007). "Cellulitis and Bacteremia Caused by Bergeyella zoohelcum". Journal of the Formosan Medical Association. 106 (7): 573–576. doi:10.1016/S0929-6646(07)60008-4. PMID 17660147.
  37. ^ Golinko, Michael S; Arslanian, Brian; Williams, Joseph K (2016). "Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution". Clinical Pediatrics. 56 (4): 316–325. doi:10.1177/0009922816657153. PMID 27400935.
  38. ^ "Tausende Verletzte durch Hundebisse(Thousands injured by dog bites)" (in German). Die Presse. October 5, 2011. Retrieved May 5, 2017.
  39. ^ "Preventing Dog Bites". Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. U.S. Department of Health & Human Service. 18 May 2015. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  40. ^ Walden, Charlotte. "State Dangerous Dog Laws". Animal Legal & Historical Center. Michigan State University. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  41. ^ See, e.g., California Court Forms MC-600, MC-601 (A notice of hearing that bears the warning: "DO NOT BRING THE DOG TO THE HEARING."), MC-602, and MC-603
  42. ^ "California Food & Agriculture Code, Sec. 31601". California Legislative Information. California State Legislature. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  43. ^ a b "Texas Health & Safety Code, Sec. 822.001 et seq". Texas State Legislature. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  44. ^ See, e.g., Waterman, Cole (7 January 2011). "Bay City attorney offers legal perspective on felony dog bite case". MLive. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  45. ^ Larson, Aaron (20 May 2016). "Dog Bite Injury Law". ExpertLaw. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  46. ^ "MCL 287.351. Person bitten by dog; liability of owner". Michigan Compiled Laws. Michigan State Legislature. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  47. ^ "Rhode Island Statutes, Sec. 4-13-16 Action for damages to animals – Double damages on second recovery – Destruction of offending dog". Rhode Island Statutes. State of Rhode Island. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  48. ^ "Florida Statutes, Sec. 767.04. Dog owner's liability for damages to persons bitten". Online Sunshine. State of Florida. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  49. ^ "California Civil Code, Sec. 3342. Damages for Wrongs". California Legislative Information. California State Legislature. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  50. ^ "Priebe v. Nelson, 47 Cal.Rptr.3d 848, 47 Cal. Rptr.3d 553, 39 Cal. 4th 1112 (2006)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  51. ^ Orlando, James (17 October 2012). "Liability for Dog Bites". Office of Legislative Research. Connecticut General Assembly. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  52. ^ "C.G.S. Sec. 22-357. Damage by dogs to person or property". Connecticut General Statutes. Connecticut General Assembly. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  53. ^ Girgen, Jen (2003). "The Historical and Contemporary Prosecution and Punishment of Animals". Animal Law Journal. 9: 97. Retrieved 1 October 2017.
  54. ^ "People v. Frazier, 173 Cal. App. 4th 613, 92 Cal. Rptr. 3d 794 (2009)". Google Scholar. Google. Retrieved 1 October 2017.

External links[edit]

External resources