Dog Bites; The Truth is That Many May Go Unreported, But Others Never Reported


Q: On a recent podcast, you talked about a dog that killed a baby. When I was a kid, the family dog bit me, and he wasn’t neutered. Do you have any statistics on how many dogs bite family members? — S.F., via cyberspace

A: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 4.7 million complaints of dog bites are registered annually across the country. Approximately 800,000 bite victims per year are treated at doctors’ offices, and close to 6,000 more require hospitalization.

However, it’s important to note that no one knows the exact number of dog bites that occur each year, partly because no one knows how many bites reports are bogus (believe it or not,). Also, since most victims are children and the bites occur most often inside homes, a significant number are never reported. As for fatal dogs attacks, they average about 12 per year to twice that many, and yes sometimes small children have been tragically killed.

Despite common belief, dogs that are not neutered are not more likely to be aggressive toward people. There is no scientific evidence to indicate otherwise. However, if an intact male dog picks up the scent of a female, he instinctively yearns to pursue her. If he gets out, off-leash and without adult supervision, I suppose anything could happen.

Arguably, the most significant contributor to canine temperament is early socialization. It’s conceivable, though no study confirms this, that owners who leave their dogs intact are less likely to proactively socialize their puppies.

With 69.9 million dogs in America, the number of bites is small — and the number of serious bites still smaller. Guns and automobiles land far more people in hospitals.

©Steve Dale, Tribune Media Services