by Merritt Clifton
Fifty thousand dogs per year, including at least 34,250 pit bulls, attack other animals, according to ANIMALS 24-7 analysis of dog attack data from 2013-2014.
Of the 82,000 animal victims per year, 59,000 die; 23,000 survive their injuries. Among the dead are 15,500 dogs, 95% of them attacked by pit bulls, and 6,000 hooved animals, 93% of them attacked by pit bulls.
Pit bulls also inflict at least 60% of the 29,000 fatal attacks on domestic birds and small mammals, and at least 60% of the 8,250 fatal attacks on cats. About a third of the fatal dog attacks on domestic birds, small mammals, and cats are by dogs who are not caught and identified, so might also include many pit bulls.
Two years of quantification
This data has emerged from more than two years of systematic effort to quantify how many other dogs, cats, livestock, and other domestic animals are victims of dog attacks.
Often asked, these questions have eluded answer because no agency systematically tracks dog attacks on other animals, and even if any did, under-reporting would pose two major problems.
First, people tend not to report attacks by their own dogs on other animals in their households.
Second, people also tend not to report attacks by other people’s dogs on animals whose cost of replacement with a similar animal would be less than the deductible on a typical homeowner’s insurance policy.
Problems in data compilation and analysis, however, often have time-tested solutions. The problems inherent in estimating dog attack fatalities and serious injuries inflicted on other animals are similar to those that were involved more than 20 years ago in estimating U.S. animal shelter killing, when relatively few shelters published their annual statistics and many did not keep any. (See “Record low shelter killing raises both hopes & questions,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-U8.)
I responded to that problem in 1994 by publishing an estimate based on proportionally weighting the limited data that was available to get regionally balanced representation. The then newly formed National Council on Pet Population Study & Policy then spent more than two years doing a much more comprehensive set of surveys which in 1996 demonstrated that my estimate had been right on target.
I have produced and published annually updated shelter killing estimates every year since. The numbers have been used by almost every major U.S. animal protection organization, both national and regional, and continue to be affirmed as accurate by other entities doing relevant studies.
To develop an estimate of the numbers of animals killed or injured by dog attacks, I collected media reports of 424 dogs killing 593 other animals and injuring more than 200 during calendar year 2013, and of 409 dogs killing 320 other animals and injuring 118 during calendar year 2014.
While the numbers of dogs involved in attacks on other animals in 2013 and 2014 were close to the same, the numbers of reported animal victims differed because fewer rampage attacks on poultry with large numbers of victims were reported in 2014.
The media reports of individual dog attacks provided “tip-of-the-iceberg” data from which to do proportional weighting and projection.
The most essential part of the exercise was to develop a consistent, systematic, and accurate method of estimating the extent of under-reporting. This began with investigating why these cases came to light, but not others.
As it happened, every account resulting in a media report in either year also involved one or more of three elements: at least one human was injured while intervening in the dog attack, and/or police shot the dog or dogs involved, and/or the victim animals were equines, livestock, or poultry of cash value exceeding $1,000.
Only one of the reported attacks in each year involved dogs killing or injuring other animals belonging to their own household.
For each reported attack, there was probably a minimum of one unreported attack involving animals of the same household, since animals of the same household have more exposure to a dangerous dog than any other animals.
Also, for each reported attack, there was probably at least one unreported attack involving animals not of the same household, in which no humans were hurt, no dogs were shot, and the animals killed or injured could be replaced for less than $1,000.
This may be greatly underestimating the numbers of such attacks, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.
Accordingly, before introducing regional proportional weighting, my assumed ratio of reports to attacks was one-out-of-three.
Next I looked at the geographic representation of the reported dog attacks on other animals to ensure that proportional weighting could produce accurate data. Reported attacks occurred in communities including 14% of the human population of the U.S. in 2013, and 15% in 2014.
Reported dog attacks on other animals were in all regions broadly distributed enough to suggest that the data from communities with reported attacks could be projected to the whole of each region.
Adjusting for community size
In small communities, of less than 10,000 people, almost every incident appears likely to be reported if a person is injured by a dog, police shoot a dog, or the animals injured in a dog attack have cash value of more than $1,000. Thus the number of reported attacks in communities of less than 10,000 people could simply be multiplied by three to get the probable numbers of total animal victims: only 67% might be unreported.
In communities of up to 100,000 people, however, minor injuries to humans, police shooting dogs, and injuries to animals of cash value exceeding $1,000 are much less likely to be deemed newsworthy by local media. Yet there is no reason to believe these communities have fewer dogs, or fewer other pets, though they probably have far fewer equines and livestock.
Extrapolating from the ratio of reported dog attacks on other animals to human population in communities of less than 10,000 people, the ratio of reported to unreported attacks in communities of up to 100,000 people appears to be one to nine: 90% of dog attacks on other animals do not receive media attention.
In communities of 100,000 people on up, and presuming for statistical purposes that no dog attacks on horses, livestock, or poultry occur in these communities, since such attacks would be relatively rare, 98% of dog attacks on other animals appear to receive no media attention.
Attack reporting compared to police shootings
The ratios of reported to unreported dog attacks on other animals relative to community size compare reasonably well to the ratios of media-reported to unreported dog shootings by law enforcement claimed by proponents of laws to require police to be trained in dog behavior. Of 636 shootings of dogs by law enforcement claimed on one online petition circulated in 2013, I was able to confirm 173 from media accounts (27%). Of 210 shootings of dogs by law enforcement claimed on another online petition circulated in 2013, I was able to confirm 33 from media reports (16%).
Several police agencies serving communities of more than a million people have within the past 10 years released reports on use of firearms which show shooting dogs to stop attacks as by far the most frequent police use of guns. Only 2.5% of these shootings have been confirmed by media in Riverside County, California; 3.4% in New York City.
117,515 animals killed by dogs in 2013-2014;
Overall, the 833 dogs who attacked other animals in 2013 and 2104, the 913 animals they killed, and the 338 animals they seriously injured, according to media reports, appear to represent about 84 times more attacking dogs and 131 times more animal victims than the reported totals.
Rounding off the numbers to the nearest five, about 99,750 dogs attacked about 164,240 other animals in the U.S. in 2013-2014, killing 117,515 and seriously injuring 46,725.
The animals killed included about 31,000 dogs, 16,500 cats, 11,885 hooved animals, and 57,240 other small domestic animals, primarily poultry.
The seriously injured included about 24,325 dogs, 5,216 cats, and 3,715 hooved animals. Few small mammals and poultry survived reported dog attacks.
Pit bulls committed more than 60% of fatal attacks
Pit bulls appear to have inflicted not less than 60% of the total fatal attacks on animals (68,500), and probably considerably more, since pit bulls might also have inflicted a significant share of the 49,000 fatalities on other animals in cases where the attacking dogs were not identified.
Altogether, pit bulls inflicted 95% of the fatal attacks on other dogs (30,466); 93% of the fatal attacks on livestock (10,583); 95% of the fatal attacks on small mammals and poultry (56,400); and at least 61% of the fatal attacks on cats (10,065), of which 35% involved unidentified dogs.
About 90,000 pit bulls were involved in attacks on other animals in 2013-2014: more than 90% of all the dogs inflicting attacks who were identified by breed.
There are about 3.5 million pit bulls in the U.S. at any given time, according to the my annual surveys of dogs offered for sale or adoption via online classified ads. (See “Large retrievers still nearly twice as popular as pit bulls,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-BA.)
Thus in 2013-2014 more than one pit bull in 40 killed or seriously injured another animal, compared with about one dog in 50,000 of other breeds.
Taking into account the increase in the U.S. pit bull population over the past decade, and the resultant surge in dog attacks on other animals, my findings are reasonably consistent with USDA Wildlife Services estimates published in 2006.
According to USDA Wildlife Services, domestic dogs had killed about 21,900 livestock and poultry in 2004, a number rounded off to 22,000 and recycled in several subsequent reports.
USDA Wildlife Services also estimated that domestic dogs killed about 2,700 sheep in 2009, quite consistent with my 2013-2014 findings.
USDA Wildlife Services has not tried to quantify dog attacks on other animals, however, and has not published estimates of the numbers of dogs involved by breed.
(See also “773% rise in fatal & disfiguring pit bull attacks from 2007 to 2014,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-14h; “Speaking out against blind & frivolous pit bull advocacy,” by Ashton Blackwell, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-14H; “Parallels between the messages sent by advocates for aggressive dogs, and the messages internalized by victims of domestic violence,” by Branwyn Finch, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-OU; “Why pit bulls will break your heart,” by Beth Clifton, http://www.animals24-7.org/2014/09/10/why-pit-bulls-will-break-your-heart/; “How many other animals did pit bulls kill in 2013,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-bS; and “The science of how behavior is inherited in dangerous dogs,” by Alexandra Semyonova, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-g5.)