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The truth about dangerous dog statistics

With all the hype about dangerous dogs and banning certain breeds, I decided to look closer at some dangerous dog statistics. I was curious as to which breeds were responsible for the most dog-bite related deaths. All the statistics I came across said roughly the same story: pit bulls and rottweilers are the most “dangerous” breeds, resulting in the highest number of fatal attacks.

A 2000 report by Vet Med today listed the kinds of dogs involved in dog-bite related fatalities in the United States between 1979 and 1998. The following is the list of dog breeds responsible for the most deaths between those years. The breed listed means that was the dominant breed of the dog, but it could have been a mixed-breed. To me, that is the largest problem with statistics. Studies can list dogs as a certain breed just because someone decided that’s what the dog most resembled. Take note that third on the list is simply “mixed breed,” where the dog was not identified in any other way. My mutt would fall into this category, making him third on the list for most dangerous kinds of dogs.

Pit bull: 118
Rottweiler: 67
Mixed breed (No dominant breed specified): 47
German shepherd: 41
Husky: 21
Chow Chow: 21
Malamute: 16
Wolf-dog hybrid:15
Doberman: 13
Great dane: 13
Saint bernard: 8
Labrador retriever: 8

Other breeds were listed, including a Westie and a Cocker spaniel. I couldn’t believe a Westie actually killed someone, but a large percentage of dog-bite fatalities were children. For example, the Vet Med study reported 70% of all people killed by dogs in 1997-1998 were children.

Dogbitelaw.com also tracks statistics on dog bites. According to this site, there were 32 fatal dog attacks in the United States in 2007. The majority of these attacks were also pit bulls and rottweilers. However, the site reminds readers that the breed of dog is often misstated in the reports, especially when pit bulls are concerned.

Keep in mind that a pit bull is not really a breed of dog, but a name used to refer to certain breeds such as the American pit bull terrier (also known as the American Staffordshire terrier) and the Staffordshire bull terrier. The term pit bull also refers to dogs mixed with these breeds or dogs with similar traits. Someone writing a police report could easily identify a boxer, a lab/mastiff mix or an American bulldog as a pit bull and it wouldn’t be questioned.

So, like with any statistics, it’s important to keep in mind where they are coming from and what’s really true. Legislators who want to ban certain breeds use statistics like these to back up their arguments that certain breeds are dangerous. I’m not convinced these statistics really prove anything. What do you think?

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