I start this post virtually the same every year, but I want to repeat it. This is my least favorite post I write on this blog, but I do feel it is important. Dogs are such wonderful companions in our lives. In the United States, more than 75 million dogs share our homes with us, take us on walks, are our running partners, snuggle on the couch with us, and share our beds. They are outstanding companions that bring joy to millions of Americans who share their lives with dogs. They are wonderfully adaptive to the wide arrange of living environments we humans subject them to. And we love them for it, and they in turn, love us back.
I'd much rather focus on the POSITIVE of what dogs bring to our lives.
However, dogs do require training, and care. And sometimes, they do bite. And rarely, those bites are severe, or even fatal. Really, when only about 30 out of 75 million owned dogs in this country are involved in fatal dog attack incidents each year, it is hardly an epidemic compared to the tens of thousands of lives lost to everyday household items like ladders, poisonous household cleaners, stairs, auto mobiles or swimming pools.
However, because there seems to be so much mis-information about fatal dog bites -- and because they seem to fascinate politicians -- I do my best to compile annual information for everyone in a timely manner that may be used to dispell the mis-information that exists elsewhere. I feel that if people truly understand WHY these tragedies happen, they can be better equipped to prevent them in the future.
So before I get into the individual incidents, here are a few things worth mentioning:
1) Because of the rarity of these extreme cases (36 out of 75 million owned dogs in this country), it is obvious that most dogs, regardless of breed, are not aggressive. Even if every single incident involved the same breed of dog, and it was an extremely rare breed, the majority of dogs of that breed would still have proven to be safe. Given the obvious fact that most dogs are not aggressive, it becomes even more important to look at the human-led circumstances that led up to, and caused, this particular dog to attack in this particular situation.
2) Media reporting varies wildly. Some incidents get a lot of media attention, some get almost none. Some of the media information is accurate, some is not. I confess that the vast majority of the information in this post comes from media reports -- and with that will have some innaccuracies. I've done my best to cut through the hysteria to get as much accurate information as I can find, but there will be inaccuracies based on inaccurate information in media reports.
3) In some instances, I've included information on poverty levels where attacks occurred. I don't do this to imply that low-income people are not good pet ownes. In fact, most are. However, in general, low income areas also are areas with lower education levels, and higher crime. Often poor formal education leads to lower education all around, including about proper animal care. This, combined with high crime causing people to want a dog with some form of "guarding" role in the home, can sometimes be a causal factor in major incidents. More than 40% of the fatal dog bite incidents in 2012 were in areas with poverty rates well above the national average -- even though only 15% of the US lives below the poverty line. I include the information so that we can at least consider the societal factors that pay a role in these incidents.
4) There are many who make the mistake of trying to link breed as a causal factor in these incidents -- however, while the incidents themselves carry many similar factors, the breeds are often very different. The circumstances of these events have far more in common than the types of dogs involved, and any breed correlation is likely to have more to do with popularity of given breeds and the likelihood of a particular breed being put in poor circumstance.
So with that, here's the list of all of the U.S. fatal dog bite incidents in 2012, along with some pertinent facts. I'll summarize my thoughts following the reported incidents. If you click on the victim's name, it will link to more information from my original report about the story - but the general format will be the name of the victim, age, location, breed description of the dog and some circumstances around the incident. Not that most of the dog breeds are in quotes because they are based on the breed ID given by the most knowledable person quoted in a news story about the situation -- but it's well documented that even "expert" opinion on breed ID in a shelter environment is very subjective.
1) Jace Paul Valdez -- 2 years old - Montgomery County, TX - "Pit bull" - The victim was left to sleep unattended with the dog present. The child and the dog were not familiar with one another. The story was picked up by more than 100 media outlets.
2) John Doe - 6 years old - Oak Grove, KY - German Shepherd - The child and his family were visiting a friend at a military base. The boy was left alone in the yard with the dog when he was attacked. There were no witnesses. The dog was a trained service dog to help the owner cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and does not appear to have been familiar with the child.
3) Howard Nicholson - 2 days old - McKeesport, PA - Husky - The newborn infant was left alone with the family dog while the mother used the bathroom. The story was picked up by 30 media outlets and the incident happened in a relatively high poverty area.
4) Dylan Andres - 17 months - Jacksonville, FL - Rottweiler - While the toddler's mother was unloading groceries from the car, the victim darted over to a neighbor's yard and up to the dog that was left chained up in the yard while the owner was not home. No one directly witnessed the attack, but the boy's mother did hear the commotion. The incident happend in an area that has more than double the national poverty rate.
5) Kyler Johnson - 4 years old - Victoria County, TX - "pit bull or pit bull mix" - The boy wandered away from his home while his dad was cleaning the car. The boy was lost for about 15 hours, and was searched for by more than 100 people including law enforcement, before he was eventually found more than 1/2 mile from his home. The dog was one of 10 dogs that was chained up behind a fence on the owner's property; the dogs were reportely used for wild boar hunting. The boy's family had a history of tragic situations. In October 2010, someone other than the boy's father was accused of abuse and lack of child supervision. A month later, physical abuse against Kyler was accused, although no evidence was found. And the home where Kyler lived was subject to a homicide investigation and "several other calls" including a situation where a person at a party at the home accidentally shot himself in the head. The story was picked up by more than 50 media outlets.
6) James Hurt - 92 - Mead, OK - 2 "Pit bulls" - The dogs involved in the incident had a history of running loose and had on many occassions threatened residents and even bitten people -- and in this case, apparently attacked Mr. Hurt while he was gardening. Mead, OK is very economically depressed area. The story was picked up by only a small number of media outlets.
7) Aiden McGrew - 2 months - Ridgeville, SC - "Retriever/Lab Mix" - Apparently the child was left sitting in a baby swing while the father slept in another room and the mother was away from the home. While the father slept in another room, the dog reportedly attacked and "dismembered" the child. The story was covered in more than 300 news outlets and the area in which the incident happened had a poverty level of more than double the national average. And lest anyone think that poor pet ownership has nothing to do with dog attacks, just last week, another child in the McGrew household was attacked (fortunately not fatally) by a different dog in the home. The father in this case, Quintin McGrew, is still awaiting trial for "parental neglect" from the first incident.
8) Jeremiah Shahan - 1 year - Henderson, NV - "Mastiff-Rhodesian Ridgeback mix" - On the night of the child's first birthday the boy's grandmother got ready to put him to bed. However, the boy grabbed the dog on both sides of his body in order to pull himself up (the toddler was just learning how to walk) and the dog spun around and bit the child and the child died from the injuries. I think this story underscores the reality that all fatal incidents are not necessarily "attacks" but can be just tragically placed "bites." The story was covered in 3 different media outlets.
9) Cliff Wright - 74 - Sante Fe, NM - "pit bull" -- There were no witnesses to the incident, but the man was found dead in his front lawn and autopsy reports confirmed that the man had suffered fatal dog bites. The story was picked up by 20 news sources.
10) Jazilyn Mesa - 16 months - Las Cruces, NM - "pit bull" - The child was left alone with the dog in the back of her grandparent's house. The grandmother apparently heard the rukus and went out back to help the toddler but was too late.
11) Makayla Darnell - 3 days - Beaverdam, OH - "appeared to be a pit bull mix" - The child was left in a swing while the parents were in another room. The dog was left alone with the infant and the dog bit the child in the head - -the child died several hours later at the hospital. Similar to an earlier incident, this appears to have been more of a "bite" than an "attack."
12) JaMarr Tiller - 2 - Mt. Pleasant, SC - "2 mixed breeds", described by one media sources as "Lab/Shepherd mixes" - The young toddler was alone outside is family's home, having apparently gotten up out of bed at night and leaving the house without the adults knowing, and was bitten multiple times by two, at large dogs. Because there were no witnesses in the attack, there was some suspicion that Coyotes may have been involved, but forensic evidence pointed to two dogs that were in the area. Authorities had visited the home location on three previous occassions on calls of stray dogs in the area, but the dogs were never captured.
13) Mary Ann Hanula - 73 - Surprise, AZ - 2 'pit bulls' - The victim as in the front yard of her home when the two dogs, that escaped from her neighbor's yard, attacked her. The attack occurred in 2011, but Hanula died in 2012 from complications from the injuries she sustained.
14) Jack Redin - 2 - Pleasant County, WV - "Mixed breed dogs" - The two dogs were kept behind an electric fence, but the 2 year old toddler rode his big wheel into the yard where the dogs were being kept and was attacked by the dogs. The story was picked up by 13 media outlets.
15) Tyzhel McWilliams - 8 months - Lemon Grove, CA - "pit bull" - The toddler was left alone with one of 3 of the family's dogs while the boy's mother and some friends weres talking and smoking marajuana in the next room. The boy had recently started crawling, and was apparently attacked by the dog. The story was picked up by 30 media outlets and poverty does seem to be a factor.
16) Kevin Latz - 50 - Reno, NV - Unknown - The man was identified in a "suspicious death" involving a canine. Virtually no information has been released about this incident.
17) Ronald Brown - 40 - Cincinnati, OH - Alapaha Plue Blood Bulldog - The victim was killed by his own dog. The man was on dialysis and the attack caused a device in his forarm to be ripped out, causing a pretty substantial wound in his forearm. There was also marajuana found in the apartment -- apparently in quantities that he had enough to sell. It seems likely that the dog had a role in guarding the stash. The incident happened in Avondale, an area with more than 40% of the population living below the poverty line.
18) Charles Hagerman - 44 - Chicago, IL - "Pit bulls" - The man was found dead in his home where the two dogs (one puppy, one adult) were. According to some close to the victim, the adult dog had frequently shown signs of aggression and Hagerman was said to be afraid of the dog. The story was picked up by 19 media outlets. This area of Chicago has a very high poverty rate.
19) Rebecca Carey - 23 - Decatur, GA - "unknown/mulitple" - The victim was a rescuer who had 5 dogs in her home -- including a Boxer, a pit bull, and two Presa Canarios. Four of the dogs were hers, but one of the Presa Canarios was just staying with her while a friend was out of town. Not much is known about the circumstances of the attack and the dogs were all killed before any investigation was even done that would indicate which dog was responsible for the attack. While it would seem that Carey may have gotten in between two of the dogs that had been fighting, at this point there really is no knowing. This story was covered by more than 150 news outlets.
20) Eugene Cameron - 65 - Roxboro, NC - "pit bull" - This is a really odd story. The man was apparently found dead in his yard. He was naked, with his clothes balled up beside him -- but died of wounds consistent from a dog bite and the dog's DNA was found on the victim. The dog was usually kept "Locked up or on a leash". The story ran in only about a dozen news sources.
21) Dawn Jurgens - 75 - Trotwood, OH - "2 Cane Corsos" - The victim owned the dogs and reportedly had food "on or about her person" and the dogs went into a frenzy when she tried to put them back into their kennels and the dogs ended up killing the victim. The story was picked up by 1 media outlet.
22) Debra Renee Wilson-Roberts - 45 - Jefferson County, AR - 2 "pit bulls" -- although one is listed at more than 100 lbs, which would be much bigger than a likely pit bull - The victim was attacked by two of her own dogs. Neighbors had often complained about the dogs being abused and neglected, and the home was currently without running water. The dogs also had a history of biting the victim. So the dogs had a history of being poorly cared for and of violence, and yet were allowed to remain in this sitaution. Poverty was definitely a factor in this case.
23) Bryton Cason - 4 - Donalsonville, GA - Unknown - This is a bizarre story lacking a lot of details, but apparently the 4 year old boy wandered from his home unattended. He was reported missing by his family and after a search of several hours in the dark, the boy's body was found in some tall grass in his own front yard. The boy had injuries consistent with dog bites. There were no witnesses to the incident, and no information about the dog(s) that attacked him (although it/they was clearly roaming at large).
24) James Hudson - 10 months - Hertford, NC - Mixed breed dog, Described as a "Labrador/American Bulldog mix" by officals at the county shelter - There were very few details reported about the story but the boy was apparently playing on the bed when the dog began to attack the boy. It is unclear if the child was supervised at the time of the attack. The dog had bitten people on previous occassions. The story was picked up by 20 media outlets.
25) Willam Donald Thomas - 83 - Leeds, AL - 2 Rottweilers - Two of 35 dogs that lived on a neighbor's property escaped and attacked Thomas while he went out to check the mail. The owners of the dogs, who were breeding them, were later indicted for homicide after admitting that they were no longer able to properly care for the dogs. The story was only picked up in 3 media sources. Poverty, and also a high incident of violent crimes, exists in the area.
26) Rayden Bruce - 3 months - Burleson, TX - mixed breed - Police were on the scene investigating a domestic distrubance call (the boy's mother and father were separated, but the mother came to the father's home when an argument broke out) . While police were there, the boy fell asleep in his grandmother's arms and she took him inside and put him to bed - and in the process, left the infant alone with the dog. The story was picked up by 39 news outlets -- and clearly a domestic disturbance was a contributing factor.
27) Nellie Davis - 60 - Oklahoma City - "pit bull" - Ms. Davis' granddaughter moved into her home while she was recovering from a long-standing sickness following having a heart transplant. While her granddaughter was away, one of the two dogs she kep in the home "broke free" from it's plastic kennel (that sounds as if it is a travel crate, not a more sturdy metal kennel) and attacked Ms. Davis.
28) Mary Jo Hunt - 53 - Pembroke, NC - unknown - Hunt was in the back yard of her home with "10-15 dogs" - described as a mix of German Shepherds and mixed breed dogs). Apparently a couple of the larger dogs attacked one of the smaller dogs, and Hunt made an attempt to break up the rukus but was overwhelmed by the larger number of dogs and died of injuries she sustained. The area where this happened had a poverty rate nearly double the national average. The story was picked up by 23 news sources.
29) Tarilyn Bowles - 3 weeks - Detroit, MI - 'pit bull' - According to the reports, the woman set the child down on the floor in her carrier, not realizing the dog was present. While she was not watching, the dog came up and bit the child, who died of the injures she received. Many parts of the story as it as reported really don't add up. The area of Detroit where this happened had a poverty rate nearly 3x the national average.
30) Remedios Romero Solares - 30 - Fallbrook, CA - 8 Olde English Bulldogs/American Bulldog mixes - The victim was house sitting for the home owners when she was attacked by one or more of the 8 Olde English Bulldog/American Bulldog mixes that lived at the home. The owners of the dogs were breeding the dogs and crossing the two breeds in order to get slightly bigger Olde English Bulldogs. Marijuana was found growing in the home. The story was picked up by 19 news sources.
31) Dixie Jennings - 2 months - Yadkin, NC - Rottweiler - The child's family owns a dog kennel, and they had the child at the kennel. A Rottweiler apparently pushed its way through an unlatched door and came upon the infant and bit her, causing fatal injuries. The story was reported in 14 news outlets.
32) Dawn Brown - 44 -Big Rock, IL - Mastiff - Brown had just taken in the Mastiff a couple of weeks prior after a family members said they no longer wanted the dog because they had a newborn infant. There were no witnesses to the attack, but Brown's boss had noted that she had mentioned that the mastiff had "turf wards" between it and her two other dogs. This may have resulted in an altercation in which Brown got in the middle of and suffered her injury. While no one witnessed the attack, autopsy reports noted that the bites matched those of the newly acquired mastiff. The story was picked up by 37 news sources.
33) Robert Rochester - 55 - Stanton, DE - German Shepherd - Rochester, a postal worker, sustained serious injuries after being attacked by the dog that go loose from a home while he was on his route. He was released from the hospital, but later suffered "complications" that were thought to be related to the attack and suffered cardiac arrest and died. The story was covered by 19 news sources.
34) Estaban Alavez -34 - Selma, CA - 4 "pit bulls" - The man was attacked by four dogs that were frequently found roaming at large and had been noted for displaying aggressive behavior. The dogs bit Alavez, with one of the bites puncturing his jugular vein, causing his death. Selma, CA has a poverty rate more than double the national average. The story was covered by 25 news sources.
35) Savannah Edwards - 2 - Shawnee County, KS - "pit bull" - There aren't a lot of details around the circumstances of the incident. The toddler and her mother were visiting a family member and the relative's dog bit the child, causing injuries that led to her death. It is unclear if the child was supervised at the time of the attack.
36) Thomas Henio - 8 - Cibola County, NM - mixed breed feral dogs - The 8 year old was out sledding by himself when he was apparently attacked by aa pack of 9 feral dogs. The incident happened on Navajo Nation owned land, which has been plagued by high numbers (an estimated 445,000 dogs compared to a population of about 89,000 households) and packs of feral dogs -- in large part due to cultural differences in the idea of dog ownership. Poverty is definitely a factor in this attack. It should also be noted that similarly, a pack of a least 25 stray, feral dogs are apparently to blame or the deaths of 4 people in Mexico in early 2013.
37) Elizabeth Hirt - 93 - Dayton, OH - 2 Boston Terriers. This is a late addition to this post -- but Hirt was badly injured by two Boston Terriers in her home. Hirt's 66 year old daughter was in the home with her at the time, and allegedly intoxicated. The incident received one media report in 2012, that noted her injuries. Hirt died 2 weeks later with no media reports.
In total, there were 37 people who were fatally injured in dog attacks this year.
-- 6 were infants less than 8 months old
-- 13 were children aged 8 months - 8 years
-- 18 of the victims were adults over the age of 23
I divide these into separate age categories because the circumstances surround each age group are very different. Infants under 8 months of age are not mobile on their own. At 8 months they become mobile (which creates other circumstances) and adults are obviously much different from children.
-- In these cases, there were 15 different breed classifications that are present.
Of the six infants that were involved, there were 6 different breeds or breed mixes involved: Husky, Retriever/Lab mix, pit bull, "mixed breed" and Rottweiler
In every single case the infant was left unattended with the dog.
I should note, that by-and-large dogs are very safe with infants, and no doubt, dogs get left alone with children all the time without incident. But they are dogs, and infants have little to no cognitive ability when it comes to dogs and are very fragile and succeptable to injury, and thus, it is important for parents to supervise ALL interactions between dogs and young children. This is why I recommend all parents consult with a dog training professional (I often recommend Family Paws Parent Education) for information on how to best bring a newborn into a home with a family pet.
Toddlers and Young Children
In total, 13 children, aged 8 months to 8 years were killed by dogs. There were 10 different breed mixes involved: German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Mastiff/Rhodesian mix, pit bull, Lab/Shepherd mix, Lab/American Bulldog mix, mixed breed, and 1 unknown.
I think this is a particularly relevent age group to discuss because research continues to tell us that children simply do not understand canine behavior, and thus, are not likely to recognize warning signs given by dogs.
One case involved an 8 year old that was attacked by a pack of feral dogs on an Indian Reservation (where feral dogs are plentiful). One involved a 6 year old playing in the yard alone with a large German Shepherd that he was unfamiliar with.
In the remaining 11 cases, the victims were 4 years of age or less.
-- In at least 8 of these 11 cases, the child was left unattended. In two cases it is unclear if adults were present or not, and in one case, a small toddler appeared to have startled, or possibly injured the dog causing a quick snap that was ill-placed and proved fatal.
-- 3 incidents occurred when a child was left unattended with the dog in the home (consistent with the situation with infants above)
-- 2 incidents involved a child leaving the home unbeknown to the adults present and being attacked in the yard by stray dogs
-- 3 incidents involved the child wandering onto a neighbor's property (once, more than 1/2 mile away from home) and wandering up to dogs that were contained on the owner's property. In two of these cases the dogs were chained, and in one case, two dogs were contained by an electronic fence that kept the dogs in, but not the toddler out.
-- In the cases involving children under the age of 4 leaving their home/yard unattended, I think it's important to think about the large number of things that would be safety risks in your own neighborhood for a child that age that is unsupervised. There are no shortage of risks out there for unsupervised children, and in rare cases, dogs are one of those risks.
There were 17 cases involving adult victims in 2012.
-- There were 9 different breeds of dogs noted in these cases: Alapaha Blue Bull Dog, Cane Corso, Boston Terrier, Rottweiler, Old English Bulldog/American Bulldog mix, pit bull, German Shepherd and in 2 cases the attacking dog was unknown.
-- 7 incidents involved elderly or disabled victims
-- 6 incidents occurred inside the home
-- In 5 cases, a history of aggressive behavior was specifically noted previously. In 2 other cases, a history of abuse/neglect was present.
-- 11 of the incidents involved multiple dogs -- showing that pack-bahavior is different in these cases than solo behavior.
- Two of these cases involved rescuers who appeared to have gotten more animals than they could handle alone and put themselves in a safety risk. Rescuers, please be smart and safe with the number of animals that you keep in your homes.
-- 6 involved dogs that were roaming at large
-- In two incidents, attacking dogs were likely being used for some type of guarding purposes as significant amounds of marajuana were found inside the home.
When considering these types of attacks, it's important to look at all the factors -- how the animals were cared for, whether there is a history of aggression (most dogs don't "attack" as their first form of aggression) and the purpose of the dog (whether it was viewed as a family pet or used for guarding purposes).
At least 9 of these incidents could have been avoided if leash laws had been properly enforced (and most of the cases involved either known packs of loose dogs or dogs that habitually ran at large). Combine this with the 13 cases involving unsupervised infants and toddlers, most of these cases were very easily avoidable.
As I note previously, when you look at the CIRCUMSTANCES behind these incidents your realize they are a much larger contributor to the attacks than "breed" -- which is why we MUST focus on these circumstances if we want to educate owenrs about attacks. These circumstances include:
- Animals living in abuseful/neglectful situations
- The purpose of the dog to the family home
- Packs of free-roaming/at-large dogs
- Children being left unsupervised by parents, particularly in the presence of a dog
-- Societal factors including poverty, crime and domestic abuse
For more information:
A preliminary report on 2012 fatalities from investigator Jim Cosby.