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Questions and Answers about Dog Bites

Q: How many dog bites occur every year in the United States?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, estimates that nearly 2% of the U.S. population is bitten by a dog each year. This translates to more than 4.7 million people per year, most of whom are children.

Q: How many people die every year as a result of dog bites?

A: Ten to 20 people die every year as a result of dog bites in the U.S. By far, the majority of the victims are children. In a three-year period between 1999 and 2001, 33 people died after being bitten by a dog. A vast majority of these victims (24 of 33) were under 12 years of age.

Q: Why do some dogs bite?

A: There are many reasons why a dog bites. Dogs bite out of fear or to protect their territory or to establish their dominance over the person bitten. Some owners mistakenly teach their dogs that biting is an acceptable form of play behavior. And every year a number of newborn infants die when they are bitten by dogs who see them as "prey." Because dog bites occur for a variety of reasons, many components of responsible dog ownership┬┐including proper socialization, supervision, humane training, sterilization, and safe confinement--are necessary to prevent biting.

Q: Which dogs most commonly bite? Are some breeds more likely to bite than others?

A: The breeds most commonly involved in both bite injuries and fatalities changes from year to year and from one area of the country to another, depending on the popularity of the breed. Although genetics do play some part in determining whether a dog will bite, other factors such as whether the animal is spayed or neutered, properly socialized, supervised, humanely trained, and safely confined play significantly greater roles. Responsible dog ownership of all breeds is the key to dog bite prevention.

Q: How can local laws prevent dog bites?

A: The most effective dangerous dog laws are those that place the legal responsibility for a dog's actions on the owner rather than on the dog. The best laws hold the owner accountable for the bite victim's pain and suffering, and mandate certain corrective actions such as spay/neuter and proper confinement of the dog. For more information on legislation that will effectively reduce dog bites in your community, contact The HSUS. For guidance on developing a dog bite prevention plan in your community, read the American Veterinary Medical Association's A Community Approach to Dog Bite Prevention.

Q: Is my community's animal care and control agency or humane society affiliated with The Humane Society of the United States?

A: No. The HSUS, the nation's largest animal protection organization with more than seven million members and constituents, is not legally affiliated with local animal care and control agencies, humane societies, or SPCAs. However, The HSUS publishes guidelines and recommendations for their operation and offers guidance and training to animal care and control personnel. The HSUS and local organizations work hand-in-hand on important animal protection issues in your community.


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