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A dog bite is a bite upon a person or other animal by a dog. More than one successive bite is often called a dog attack, although dog attacks can include knock-downs and scratches. Though many dog bites do not result in injury, they can result in infection, disfigurement, temporary or permanent disability, or death. Another type of dog bite is the "soft bite" displayed by well-trained dogs, by puppies, and in non-aggressive play. Dog bites can occur during dog fighting, as a response to mistreatment, trained dogs acting as guard or military animals, or during a random encounter.
There is 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. It is estimated that 2% of the U.S. population, 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs each year. Most bites occur in children. In the 1980s and 1990s, the U.S. averaged 17 deaths per year. Between 2005 and 2018 approximately 471 people were killed by dog bites in the United States, averaging 37 deaths per year. Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States.
Rabies results in the death of approximately 55,000 people per year, with most of the causes due to dog bites. Capnocytophaga canimorsus, MRSA, tetanus, and Pasteurella can be transmitted from a dog to someone bitten by the dog. Bergeyella zoohelcum is an emerging infection transmitted through dog bites. Infection with B. zoohelcum from dog bites can lead to bacteremia.
All dog breeds can inflict a bite. Breed is not an accurate predictor of whether or not a dog will bite. In the US pit bull-type and Rottweilers most frequently are identified breeds in cases of severe bites. This may be due to their size. These breeds are more frequently owned by people involved in crime.
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.
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. The American Veterinary Medical Association released a statement that this study "cannot be used to infer any breed specific risk for dog bite fatalities". 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. 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. 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.
In isolation, predatory behaviors are rarely the cause of an attack on a human. 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.
Dog bite prevention is efforts to prevent people being attacked and bitten by dogs. 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. 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. Other measures in preventing dog bites are signage ("Beware of Dog") and locked dog enclosures.
Dogs can be extremely territorial and protective. Dogs can attack anyone who poses a threat to their companions, whether humans, other dogs, or even cats. Dogs can rival bears and Big Cats in ferocity when confronting burglars even if they are ordinarily docile.
In addition to causing pain, injury, or nerve damage, almost one out of five bites becomes infected. Those who work and live around dogs should be aware of the risk and take precautions. Rabies is a particular risk associated with dog bites. In the United States between 16,000–39,000 people come in contact with potentially rabid dogs and other animals and receive rabies pre- and postexposure prophylaxis against the rabies virus each year. Because anyone who is bitten by an unvaccinated dog is at risk of getting rabies, local animal control agencies or police are sometimes able to capture the animal and determine whether or not it is infected with rabies.
Identifying the risk of being bitten by a dog can prevent an attack and subsequent injury or death. Infants and children are more likely to be bitten. Small children can be attacked if they approach or play with a dog when they are not supervised. Among children, the rate of dog-bite–related injuries is highest for those five to nine years old. Children are more likely than adults to need medical attention for dog bites. Men are more likely than women to be bitten by a dog. Over half of dog-bite injuries occur in the home. Having a dog in the household is associated with a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten. Adults with two or more dogs in the household are five times more likely to be bitten than those living without dogs at home.
The behavior of a dog may not always indicate its friendliness or unlikelihood of biting. This is because when a dog wags its tail, most people interpret this as the dog expressing happiness and friendliness. Though indeed tail wagging can express these positive emotions, tail wagging is also an indication of fear, insecurity, anxiety, challenging of dominance, establishing social relationships or a warning that the dog may bite.
There are a number of recommendations for the public to prevent dog bites. The CDC and the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend that around dogs:
- not approach an unfamiliar dog
- not run from a dog
- not walk into an unfamiliar dog while it is still barking and looking at you
- not stare at a strange aloof dog for a long time
- 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
- avoid the dog if it is ill
- avoid waking the dog – call the dog by name
- do not retrieve objects from the dog's mouth
- avoid face-to-face interaction with the dog
- not disturb the dog while it is eating
- reduce the dog's interaction with children
- not attempt to break up a dog fight
- never approach any pack of unfamiliar dogs. Dogs attack as if one, and as such are potentially as lethal as other large predators.
- do not trust any screen, latch, or fence to prevent the approach of an aggressive dog or pack of dogs
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.
As of 2019 is unclear whether or not it is safe to close bites at the time they occur are if they should be closed at a later date if not infected.
Significant dog bites affect tens of millions of people globally each year. It is estimated that 1.5–2 percent of the US population, from 4.5–4.7 million people, are bitten by dogs yearly. Most bites occur in children. Over half of dog bite injuries occur at home with familiar dogs and having a dog in the household is linked to a higher likelihood of being bitten than not having a dog. As the number of dogs in the home increases, so does the likelihood of being bitten. Dog bites may transmit zoonotic infections, which may also result in illness or death. In fact, dogs are the main source of rabies transmission to humans worldwide. Information on the extent of traumatic injuries from dog attacks is incomplete, and the number of bites is thought to be underreported In a survey of dog bites in Pennsylvania, the rate of dog bites was 36 times higher than what had been reported to authorities According to national estimates, almost 1000 persons per day are seen in emergency departments for dog bites. has been estimated that 1 out of 2 people will suffer from a dog-related injury during his lifetime. Most victims are involved in normal, apparently nonprovoking activities before dog attacks.
Animal bites, most of which are from dogs, are the reason for 1% of visits to an emergency department in the United States. Some people, like the very young or the very old are more susceptible to being bitten by a dog. From 1979 through 1994 there were approximately 279 deaths related to dog attacks in the United States. In 2017, approximately 40 people were killed as a result of dog bites.
More serious injuries from dogs are often described in the media. In 2010, more people were killed by dogs (34) than were hit by lightning (29). Emergency department visits and treatment by those bitten number in the thousands.
About 5,900 Austrians are treated annually after being bitten by dogs. One fifth of those injured are children.
In the United States, approximately 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year. Approximately twenty percent of dog bites become infected.
In a survey of dog bites in Pennsylvania, the rate of dog bites was 36 times higher than what had been reported to authorities. According to national estimates, almost 1000 persons per day are seen in emergency departments for dog bites. It has been estimated that 1 out of 2 people will have a dog-related injury during their lifetime.
Society and culture
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. In some cases, a dog owner may be criminally prosecuted for a dog attack on another person. 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:
- 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, Rhode Island, Florida, California, and Texas. 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.
In modern times, the United States has not been receptive to the idea that a dog, itself, can be criminally liable. 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.
- Coyote attacks on humans
- Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
- Fatal dog attacks in the United States
- Status dog
- Wolf attacks on humans
- Cat bite
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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.
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