Dog Bite Related Fatalities on the Rise
Most households in America (53 percent) have at least one dog. This may partially explain why deaths caused by being bitten or attacked by a dog are on the rise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, comparing 2011 with 2021.
Between 2011and 2018, the number of dog bite related deaths hovered around 20, on average. Unfortunately, 2018 through 2021, deaths more than doubled, the CDC reported. While the number of dogs has significantly risen, that number has not doubled. So why are dog bite related fatalities apparently rising so fast?
As a sidenote while the current number of just under 50 or so dog-related fatalities annually is too many, that pales by comparison to over 20,100 murders according to the Pew Research Center. Actually, forklifts must be more dangerous as more people succumb to forklift accidents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
New research from Edge Hill University in Lancashire, England shows that one explanation for increased dog attacks, at least on the other side of the pond, is that dog owners often misinterpret dog behavior.
Dog parents, according to the study, also struggle to identify, understand, or concede the reality of their dog’s body language.
Professor Parkinson, co-director of Edge Hill’s Center for Human Animal Studies (CfHAS), says a part of the problem is the intensification of the human-animal bond, and that some people may have a misguided anthropomorphic view of their own dog and other dogs, resulting in inadequate training and misinterpretation of behavior.She adds, “One alarming finding was that many dog-owning respondents couldn’t discern a dog’s communication cues, and even worse, some said they would react by attempting to cuddle or stroke a worried dog, increasing the risk of being bitten. Owners need to gain a better understanding of how to react to a dog’s behavior.”
Professor Parkinson also cautioned owners, “One alarming finding was that many dog-owning respondents couldn’t discern a dog’s communication cues, and even worse, some said they would react by attempting to cuddle or stroke a worried dog, increasing the risk of being bitten. Owners need to gain a better understanding of how to react to a dog’s behavior.”
Professor Parkinson is calling on the UK Government to overturn outdated breed-based legislation, which in the U.S. has greatly occurred. Breed bans don’t work, and have been increasingly overturned in the U.S. because where there are breed bans, significant dog bite numbers simply haven’t changed. Professor Parkinson proposes reintroducing licenses, launching a public information campaign, and establishing easily accessible, community-led dog training sessions for low-income dog owners.