Today I’m going to focus on our statistics of dog bites by breed. First, I will start with the fact that there is no national group who is collecting uniform bite statistics. The CDC was attempting to gather this info, but quit in 1998 because they realized the data proved nothing and groups were misusing the information. Why does the data prove nothing?
First, there’s the huge problem of breed mis-identification. And then there’s mixed breeds. If a dog is 60% poodle and 40% pit bull, which breed gets the “credit”? (Take a guess at which breed is usually getting the credit, if the dog looks anything remotely like that breed. )
Second, we don’t know the total number of dogs by breed in the community (and adding mixed breeds in there, once again exponentially confuses the matter). So, if 10 bites were from pit bulls and 5 bites were from golden retrievers, but the community has 10,000 pit bulls and 2,000 golden retrievers, there are a higher percentage of golden retrievers biting. But we don’t know the total number of dogs by breed. All we know is that pit bulls outbit golden retrievers 2:1. We don’t know that goldens had more than double the rate of biting than pit bulls.
Third, most groups/communities are counting a nip that scratches the skin from play the same as a full-on highly aggressive attack. Both count as 1 bite incident.
Interestingly, even if we did have perfect statistics and were correctly identifying breeds and had a solution for categorizing mixed-breeds, the data still wouldn’t prove that one breed is inherently more aggressive than another. THE PIT BULL PLACEBO: THE MEDIA MYTHS AND POLITICS OF CANINE AGGRESSION dedicated most of its space to this one reason, which I’ll cover next.
Are there statistics that could be useful in keeping the public safer from dog attacks? Yes, and I’ll cover that soon too.
(All of the data from today’s post comes from the National Canine Research Council’s websection on Dog Bites. Please check it out for more details!)