Thursday, November 6, 2008

Dog bites man - a contrived crisis

According to the CDC, each year, dogs bite about 4.7 million people in the United States.

Wow! That's a lot of dog bites. Especially if one assumes that the CDC did not attempt to factor in unreported bites, of which there are many, every day.

On average, 800,000 require medical attention, and more than half are children.

Double wow! This means that over 400,000 children per year see a doctor following a dog bite.

"There ought to be a law!!!"

Funny you should say that...

Usually 0.0015% of those injuries (about a dozen) which require some level of medical care, become a cause of death. Put another way, out of 4.7 million dog bites in a given year, 0.00025% result in fatal injury.

But wait, it gets better.

If you are interested in the broad picture of dog breed bans and "vicious dog" outcries, pick up the books by Karen Delise,

Fatal Dog Attacks: The Stories Behind the Statistics,
The Pit Bull Placebo: The Media, Myths and Politics of Canine Aggression.

Be sure to also pick up Dogs Bite: But Balloons and Slippers are More Dangerous by Janis Bradley.

During a recent seminar Ian Dunbar was asked about the problem of dog attacks and he said "Each year, nearly a thousand children are killed ... [he paused dramatically] ... by their parents." Or to put it in context, children are nearly 60 times more likely to be killed by their parents than by a dog, any dog.

Obviously, we need to enact more city ordinances banning parents.

Sarcasm aside, I'm not in any way trying to diminish the very real pain and trauma that can come from a severe dog bite or dog attack. Nor am I unaware that a dog bite need not be fatal to be disfiguring, or otherwise injurious. I'm simply saying that we need to get some pragmatic perspective.

This deadly dogs vs. deadly parents data comes from Bradley's book. Her extensive research and facts are surprising, even for those of us in the dog "choir."

You are, for example, 5 times more likely to be killed by lightning (killed -- not just struck) than killed by a dog.

This is why we so desperately need a healthy dose of real perspective on the dog bite/vicious dog issue... a dog bite is one of the rarest causes of death, but one of the most highly publicized.

Importantly, Bradley also spends a lot of her book discussing the absurdity of determining "vicious breeds."

These books are must reads for anyone concerned about this issue wanting real numbers, and not hype, to defend our dogs from the overblown rhetoric.

For additional information on dog attacks please go to The National Canine Research Council website.

Many thanks to Julia Jones for pointing me to the "Dogs Bite" book.