I really hate to do this post. I think the idea of basing much about public safety on the very few dog bite fatalities is pretty absurd. The number of fatalities is such a statistically insignificant number of the total dog bites out there - and even serious bites - that the data isn't all that valuable. Dog bite fatalities are so rare that it would be almost impossible to create one even if you tried.
I also confess that because I don't do actual on-site research on these cases, and all of my 'research' on this comes from media articles I know that a) it may not be a comprehensive list of fatalities and b) that it comes with the inaccuracies that come from any research done solely based on media articles because the media is often innaccurate.
However, I think it's important to do this list because I think there are a lot of people who make assumptions based on dog bite fatality statistics. Most reliable sources sources don't publish their information regularly (unless Jim Crosby posts his analysis again, which is always far better than mine, and Karen Delise seldom publishes her information -- both have on-site, interview information). Most others want to publish statistics without paying any attention to the circumstances that actually led to the fatal attack. They think you can draw conclusions based on numbers, not events.
It is my hope that when people read this, they will note the circumstances that led to the attacks -- so that more of these tragic attacks can be avoided in the future. I certainly think you'll see some major trends as you read through these. Each link links back to my original coverage of the attack earlier this year -- with one exception -- an attack that had almost no information attached to it that I never covered it assuming that more info would come out about it.
I've also noted the amount of media reporting surrounded most of the attacks (when I remembered to put it in my original posts). I think you'll notice a major difference depending on the breeds involved in the attacks.
Here's the list:
Andrew Stein - 8 months old - Doberman Pincher - the child was being watched by his grandmother and may have startled the dog when he touched his paw.
6 week old child - Jack Russell Terrier -- Louisville, KY the child and the smallish dog were left alone together and at some point, the dog attacked and killed the child.
Kelli Chapman - 24 years old - two pit bulls - Longville, LA - this is a really odd story. Chapman was prone to having seizures, and may or may not have had a seizure at the time of the attack. The Chapman's had also previously had a Narcotics SWAT team invade their home for methamphetamines and other drug items and the Chapman's had a dog killed during that raid. This is a very odd story, and since Kelli was alone at the time of the attack, no true details were ever uncovered.
Two year old boy - Husky Mix- Ft Yukon, AK - The young boy wandered into the neighbor's back yard unsupervised. The attacking dog was among a group of chained dogs that were still eating -- the dog was apparently protecting its food. The boy was fond of dogs and just walked up to them without any thought he could be in danger. Was covered by 1 media outlet.
Julian Slack, - 3 years old - Pit bull - Camp Lejeunne, NC - The boy was staying with a babysitter, and a friend of the babysitter came over with his dog (that was apparently unfamiliar with the boy). The dog became startled by something the boy may have done (read: the child was alone with the dog, and we don't know what happened) and atacked the young boy. Made dozens of news sources, including MSNBC.
Tanner Joshua Monk - 7 - Pit bull - Abilene, TX - The dogs were off-leash and apparently attacked and killed the young boy. No one witnessed the attack . Picked up by over 250 media outlets.
Five year old boy - 2 Pit bulls - Weslaco, TX - The dogs belonged to the boy's uncle (who the boy lived with). The family lived in a tough neighborhood, where there had been several robberies in the neighborhood, and yet, police weren't controlling the situation. The uncle got the two dogs to protect his property, and left them chained up most of the time -- letting them lose only late at night. The dogs became aggressive toward a man and another dog and the young boy went out to check on the dogs and was fatally attacked. Picked up by 140 media outlets including national media outlets like CNN and MSNBC.
Loraine May - 74 years old - Golden Retriever/Lab mix and an Austrailian Shepherd Mix -Titusville, FL - The dogs apparently did not get along very well and were prone to fighting. It is believed that the woman was killed when trying to break up the fight. The story was picke up by 20 news outlets, all in the state of Florida.
Tony Evans Jr - 3 years old - pit bull - Jackson, MS - The dog was purchased by the dog's owner to protect his garage that had been broken into on several occassions. The dog was kept chained to the carport and was strictly used as a guard dog. Even the owner said "Believe me, this was no pet". The young boy was left alone unsupervised after 9 pm that night and wandered up to the dog and was attacked and killed. The attack was picked up by dozens of media outlets including nationally on Fox News.
Addison Sonney - 14 months old - Old English Sheepdog - Millcreek Township, PA - Not a lot of details on this attac -- but the infant was killed by the dog -- and the mother appeared to be present.
Two month old boy - Labrador Retriever - Tulsa, OK - The true perfect storm of a fatal dog attack. The mother was a 17 year old single mother with a history of drug addiction. The dog was left unfed for quite a length of time (possibly for up to 3 days). The child was left alone with the dog while the rest of the family slept in a different part of the house.
Isis Krieger - six years old - pit bull -- Alaska - The dog had previously shown several signs of aggression - killing a neighbor's cat, biting two different family members. The dog had been taken from the family before for aggression, but later returned. The child was with her babysitter when the attack occurred.
Alexis Hennessy - five days old - Husky - Hopatcong, NJ - Not a lot of details on this one either but the child was obviously brand newly added to the home.
Robert Howard - Adult male - pit bull - Detroit - Again, a bit of an odd story that didn't make many headlines. But apparently a stray dog attacked a woman and her dogs. A man came to her aid to break up the fight, and the dog bit the man in the leg, severing one of his major artiries and the man died. The dog was described as a "pit bull" - but was never found by authorities so was identified by only the woman at the scene.
Henry Piotrowski - 90 years old - 2 pit bulls - The dogs had a history of aggression - and 911 had received at least 8 phone calls about the dogs roaming off-leash and being aggressive, but authorities never came out to check on the dogs. Piotrowski was attacked and eventually died from the attack.
83 year old woman - 3 pit bulls - Ville Platte, LA - The dogs were running at large and attacked the woman while she was out picking up cans for recycling.
Cendi Kia Carey - 4 months old - pit bull - Las Vegas, NV - New infant had come into the family and neighbors reported that the dog had become increasingly aggressive toward the child over the past four months. The child was left with the grandmother while the parents were away and the dog attacked. Covered in multiple media outlets across the country, from San Francisco to Illinois and in national media like MSNBC.
Three day old infant - Siberian Husky - Leavittsburg, OH -- the dog went into the child's room and attacked the infant while the parents were in another room.
Katya Todesco - 5 years old - pit bull - Simi Valley, CA - The girls was playing with the dog in the back yard with her 13 year old sister. The child and the dog were not familiar with each other. The child "fell into" the dog and the dog lashed out at the child.
Lokepa Liptak - 2 months old - "mixed breed" - Hawaii - No details on how the attack occurred -- but neighbors report that the dog was aggressive and had lived most of its life confine din a small outdoor kennel.
Chester Jordan - 62 years old - 'pit bulls' - Muncie, IN - Jordan lived in the basement of the family home with three adult dogs and six puppies. The man had dementia, and authorities are concerned about the living conditions of the man. The dogs were called 'pit bulls' by the media, so that's what I went with here -- but the dog in the media pictures did not look like it was one of the 'pit bull' breeds. Coroner's reports indicate that the man had old bite wounds that appeared to be from previous bites by the dogs.
Alexander Adams - 2 years old - "terrier mixes" - Las Vegas, NV - The grandmother fed both dogs and left the room -- meanwhile, the 2 year old wandered up to the feeding dogs. When the grandmother returned, the child was dead.
60 year old man - "Mastiff/pit bull mix, 'pit bull' - Riveside, CA -- not much for details on this story. The man went outside to smoke and the two dogs attacked and killed the man (there were also 9 puppies found at the home). No word on what may have caused the attack. The larger dog is being called a Mastiff/pit bull mix - so again, we'll go with that -- but most likely that was one of the Molossar breeds. The story was picked up by over 270 media outlets -- inlcuding national media like USA Today and Fox News -- and all of them reported the attack as being by two 'pit bulls'. Only the local media made the distinction.
In total, there were 23 fatal dog attacks that were reported in 2008 - -which is a more normal number after having a lot in 2007.
Of the 23 fatal dog attacks:
11 different breeds of dogs represented
15 of the victims were six years of age or younger.
Of the 8 attacks involving victims over the age of 6, all included multiple dogs, and three were by stray/off-leash dogs.
8 of the victims were under 14 months of age -- attacked by a wide array of family dogs that were either left alone with the child or where the dog was not adequately socialized with the infants
--5 of these victims were less than 2 months old.
-- There were six different breeds of dogs involved in these attacks
8 of the victims were between the ages of 2 and 7 -- 3 different breeds of dogs involved
-- In none of the cases were the parents present. In 7 of the 8 cases, there was no adult supervision
-- Two of the incidents involved 2 year olds that walked up to animals while eating -- in one of these cases, the dog was also chained.
-- Two of the cases involved dogs that were gotten with the intent of them being guard dogs -- in both cases, the dogs were either chained, or were usually chained.
-- In two of the cases, the dogs had previously show major signs of aggression previously
-- One case involved two dogs that were left to roam free (this was the oldest of the children that was attacked)
-- 7 of the cases involved adults -- 5 different breeds involved
-- 5 of these victims were over the age of 60, 3 over 70
-- All of these attacks involved more than one dog
-- The two oldest victims (83, 93) were attacked by packs of roaming dogs -- one group had been called into authorities on numerous occassions
-- Two of the cases involved cases where dogs got in fights with other dogs and the human got in the middle of the fight. One was on the street, one was betwen dogs in the same family with a history of aggression toward each other.
-- Two had unusual circumstances, either with a man with dementia and another that possibly involved an epileptic seizure
-- In one case, the cause is unknown.
I would also be neglegent if I didn't mention the correlation between poverty and these fatal attacks. Of the attacks involving adults:
Longville, LA has a poverty rate of 16%, which is above the national poverty level of about 12%. We also know there were drugs previously at this residence, and possibly next door also, so this may not be the best of areas on Longville.
Port Richmond, Staten Island, NY (zip code 10302) has a poverty rate of 18% (and we know that in this case, authorities were non-responsive on multiple occassions to calls about these dogs.
The 47303 zip code in Muncie, IN, where the attack took place, has a poverty rate of 23%.
Ville Platte, LA, where the woman was killed by roaming dogs, has a Poverty Rate of 47% - indicating a community with some major social problems beyond just dogs.
The 92509 zip code of Riverside has a poverty rate of 18%.
Combine this with the dogs that were "necessary for protection" in Weslaco (poverty rate 31% - -and one of the poorest counties in the country), and Jackson, MS (the zip code has a poverty rate of 13%) along with the Ft Yukon, AK having a poverty rate of 18% -- covering most of the older children. I didn't pull this for the exceptionally young children. So that's virtually every attack happening in a zip code with high levels of poverty (where lower education, higher crime also follow).
If we want to stop fatal dog attacks, here are some helpful tips:
1) Educate parents with very young children on the best ways to introduce the dogs/children into the family and educate parents on the importance of supervising the children with the dogs.
2) Prevent the use of dogs for guarding (and the social reasons people feel it is necessary).
3) Educate people that dogs that show aggression either a) should be euthanized or b) worked with with a trainer to cure the aggression issues
4) Enforce leash laws and vigilently pick up stray/roaming dogs.
5) Prohibit unsupervised tethering of dogs - -ie tethering as the primary form of containment.
6) Deal with the societal problems that plague low-educated, low income neighborhoods - -including educating them on the proper ways of caring for and maintaining canines.
This would have solved all but a couple of the stranger attacks over the past year -- and in most years. When we focus the discussions on "breed", we continue to do ourselves a disservice by not focusing on these primary issues. For everyone's benefit, we must begin to focus on the circumstances of these attacks.