Social distancing again suppressed the totals, but pit bulls still accounted for 84% of all animals killed by dogs
Again in 2021, as in 2020, social distancing practiced due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic kept people and dogs home much more often than in previous years.
This trend held reported dog attacks on other animals to about half of the pre-pandemic annual average since ANIMALS 24-7 began tracking the data in 2013.
However, the numbers of reported dog attacks on other animals did rise sharply in 2021, while the recurring pattern of pit bulls accounting for approximately 90% of dog attack fatalities and injuries to other animals remained practically unchanged.
Other dogs involved in reported fatal attacks on other animals in 2021 included most of the usual suspects: in alphabetical order Akita, Doberman, German shepherd, husky, Labrador mixes of various sorts, and Malinois.
But 26% of the reported attacks on other animals committed in 2021 by dogs other than pit bulls were committed in pack attacks also including pit bulls.
The numbers appear in the two charts below. Discussion follows.
As ANIMALS 24-7 detailed on January 9, 2022 in Will there be a Tomb of the Unknown Pit Bull Victim? Body count 2021, social distancing in 2020 and 2021 contributed to the paradox that disfiguring dog attack on humans, including by pit bulls, dropped by about 60% from the average of recent previous years, even as dog attack fatalities soared to the second and third highest annual totals on record, including the highest and third highest totals of pit bull attack fatalities.
This appears to have been an artifact of under-reporting of nonfatal dog attacks, and especially of nonfatal pit bull attacks, occurring within homes and families.
Human fatalities due to dog attack are usually extensively reported, but insurance industry data consistently shows that about 25 times more payouts are made in claims for injuries inflicted by dogs than there are cases of disfigurement due to dog attack reported by news media.
Under-reporting, even in “normal” years, is even more frequent in cases of dogs killing or injuring other animals.
ANIMALS 24-7 accordingly derives our estimates of the numbers of animals killed by dogs each year, and the numbers killed by pit bulls, through a multi-step process meant to compensate for under-reporting.
First, ANIMALS 24-7 logs dog attacks on other animals reported by electronic media each and every day throughout the year, in the same manner as we log fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on humans.
As dog attacks on other animals are much less likely to be considered newsworthy than attacks in which humans are killed or disfigured, ANIMALS 24-7 estimates that reported dog-against-animal attacks are not more than 4% (one in 25) of the total number of cases in which an insurance payout would be made if a human had been the victim.
Dog attacks on animals receiving electronic media notice are almost exclusively incidents in which either a human was also killed or injured; law enforcement or other intervenors killed the attacking dog; and/or the dog attack caused the death(s) of animals valued at more than $1,000.
Further, dog attacks on other animals belonging to the same household as the dog are usually not reported at all.
ANIMALS 24-7 presumes that for every dog attack that is reported, meeting the criteria for making an insurance claim if a human had been the victim, at least one dog attack on another animal occurs within the same household as the dog, and at least one other dog attack occurs in which a person is not killed or injured, no one kills the attacking dog, and/or the dead or injured animal is not valued at more than $1,000.
Therefore our final figure is reported attacks multiplied by 25, to compensate for the gap between reported attacks and hypothetically possible insurance payouts if the victims were human, and then again by three to compensate for under-reporting of dog attacks that do not meet the criteria for hypothetically possible insurance payouts.
This amounts to reported attacks multiplied by 75, a ratio which over the years appears to be consistent with local data, where available, on the frequency of dog attacks on other animals vs. local media reporting.
The ANIMALS 24-7 estimation process parallels a familiar geometry problem, in which one tries to calculate the mass of an iceberg from knowing the altitude of the tip of the iceberg above sea level.
Sea captains in Arctic and Antarctic waters resolve this problem using a similar method hundreds of times a day.
Avoiding the fate of the Titanic
The tip of the iceberg is the number of reported dog attacks on other animals. Sea level is the ratio of reported dog attacks on humans to insurance payouts.
Comparing these two known values to each other produces an estimate of the slope of the iceberg.
Knowing that about two-thirds of an iceberg is below sea level permits making an estimate accurate enough that it keeps ships whose captains look out for icebergs afloat, whereas for the Titanic it was full speed ahead and damn the consequences.
Fluctuations in the estimated numbers of dog attacks on other animals in comparing data from year to year are inevitable in extrapolating from the relatively low number of reported dog attacks on other animals to estimate national totals.
Thus the numbers from any one year are likely to be less representative than the average from multiple years.
With that much said, because the abnormally low number of reported dog attacks on other animals in 2020 and 2021 have depressed the annual averages calculated since 2013, the averages offered in the two tables above may be on the low side.