By Doug Davison, Houston Herald

A Sept. 17 attack on an 8-year-old Texas County girl by a couple of pit bulls with an apparent history of being overly aggressive makes this as good a time as any to take a look at some interesting statistics.

Dog bites by the numbers (According to data posted on DogBiteLaw.com, a Web site produced by Kenneth M. Phillips, a Beverly Hills, Calif., attorney who is widely recognized as one of the nation’s leading authorities on dog bite law):

According to an American Pet Products Manufacturers Association National Pet Owners Survey from 2007-2008, there were 74.8 million dogs in the United States at that time.

A survey by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta (CDC) concluded that dogs bite nearly 2% of the U.S. population; that’s more than 4.7 million people annually.

One out of every six of those bites (or just short of 800,000 bites per year) are serious enough to require medical attention.

Dog bites send nearly 368,000 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (1,008 per day).
Many dog bites sustained by people ages 16 and over are work related (The U.S Postal Service reported that every year 2,851 letter carriers are bitten).

Getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most frequent cause of visits to emergency among children engaging in voluntary activities (a report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, Child Injury and Mortality states that the leading causes of emergency room visits overall are falls, being struck by or against an object, natural or environmental causes, poisoning, being cut or pierced, and motor vehicle accidents).

According the CDC, Americans have a one-in-50 chance of being bitten by a dog each year.

2009 dog bite fatalities (according to data posted on DogsBite.org, a national dog bite victims’ group Web site dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks):

–– In 2009, 32 fatal dog attacks occurred in the United States. Despite making up only 5% of the country’s dog population and being regulated in military housing areas and over 500 U.S. cities, pit bulls accounted for 44% of these attacks.
–– In 2009, the combination of pit bulls (14) and rottweilers (4) accounted for 56% of all fatal attacks. In the 5-year period from 2005 to 2009, this same combination accounted for 70% (103) of the total recorded deaths (148).
–– The combination breakdown between the two breeds is substantial. From 2005 to 2009, pit bulls killed 82 Americans (about one citizen every 22 days), while rottweilers killed 21 (about one every 87 days).
–– 2009 data shows that 63% (20) of the attacks occurred to children 11 years of age and under and 38% occurred to adults. Of the children, 60% (12) occurred to ages 2 and younger. In all attacks, males were more often victims than females (59%).
–– 2009 data also shows that 38% (12) of all fatal attacks involved multiple dogs, 19% (6) involved chained dogs, 75% (24) occurred on the dog owner’s property and 25% (8) occurred off the owner’s property.
–– The state of Texas led in dog attack fatalities in 2009 with five, while Georgia and Illinois each had four, and California and Virginia had three apiece. Of the Texas deaths, the combination of pit bulls and rottweilers accounted for 80% (four).

There appears to be a pattern here.

While it’s obviously not illegal to own dogs of questionable breed, one has to wonder if it just plain makes any sense in some cases.

Maybe the cities where they’re no longer deemed OK as apartment dwellers are onto something. Maybe large animals with an instinctive desire to tear into flesh shouldn’t be allowed to inhabit any place where they have easy access to that of young human females with substantially less strength (or males, for that matter).

But then again, maybe dogs will be dogs and the fault lies with the bite victims for coming within range of a canine ticking time bomb.

The debate as to whether people should be allowed to have as pets dogs of the breeds in question will not be solved any time soon.

But the numbers are undeniably interesting.

And realistically, having any breed of four-legged family member – but certainly more so for a couple – brings with it the responsibility to make sure they don’t get the chance to take a bite out of their neighborhood.

Doug Davison is a writer, copy editor and general office worker for the Houston Herald. His assignments include a crime beat and through this blog, he shares some interesting, intriguing and sometimes funny insight regarding stories he discovers weekly at the Texas County Justice Center. You can contact Doug at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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