The numbers & how ANIMALS 24-7 derives them
A decade ago, in January 2013, ANIMALS 24-7 embarked on what is now a 10-year voyage to boldly go where no statistician had gone before, to find not only how many other pets and livestock animals are killed by dogs each year, but also to establish which dogs are doing the killing.
The only prior estimate of the sort was that USDA Wildlife Services has projected since 2004, based on calls for help from farmers, that dogs kill upward of 22,000 livestock animals per year, including both poultry and hoofed species.
(Click here for the ANIMALS 24-7 numbers: 2022 projected animals killed by dogs.)
Limitations of the USDA Wildlife Services estimate
But the USDA Wildlife Services estimate was for a single year, and did not include dog attacks on other dogs, attacks on cats, or dog attacks on other animals occurring on private property.
Nor did the USDA Wildlife Services data take into account animals killed by dogs in animal care-and-control jurisdictions outside USDA Wildlife Services’ authority.
The USDA Wildlife Services projection further excluded dog attacks on other animals that do not result in calls for help.
While the math may have been sound, based on the few numbers that USDA Wildlife Services had to go by, the actual projection basis was inevitably attacks on other animals by just a few hundred individual dogs.
Lack of input data––under-reporting––precluded producing a truly comprehensive estimate of either the extent of dog harm to other animals, or of the contribution of any breed or breed type to the mayhem.
Indeed, USDA Wildlife Services did not even attempt to categorize attacking dogs by breed.
ANIMALS 24-7 recognized this as an “iceberg problem,” in which the mass of an iceberg lurking beneath ocean waves must be calculated from the slope of the tip of the iceberg floating above sea level.
This process is familiar to Arctic and Antarctic mariners, at least since the Titanic sank in 1912, but not so much to most people who count animals.
The first step is to measure the tip: dog attacks on other animals that are individually documented, primarily by news media.
ANIMALS 24-7 had already been collecting and collating information about fatal and disfiguring dog attacks on humans, sorted by dog breed type, since 1982.
Human fatalities due to dog attack are usually extensively reported, but ANIMALS 24-7 had learned over the years that insurance industry data consistently shows that about 25 times more payouts are made in claims for injuries inflicted by dogs than in cases of non-fatal disfigurement reported by news media.
Assuming an under-reporting ratio of 25 unreported cases to one that makes news appeared to be a good starting point for estimating the under-reporting factor.
By 2014, however, after a year of collating reported dog attacks on other animals, several further factors contributing to under-reporting, not applicable to cases of dog injury to humans, became evident:
- Dog attacks on animals receiving media notice are almost exclusively incidents in which either a human was also killed or injured; and/or
- 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.
In addition, dog attacks on other animals belonging to the same household as the dog are usually not reported at all.
Therefore our final estimate of fatal dog attacks on other animals each year became 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.
81% of dogs who killed other animals were pit bulls
Regardless of whatever quibbles anyone may have with this method of producing the ANIMALS 24-7 annual estimates, collecting the raw data for 10 years has amassed information about 3,625 individual dogs killing other pets and/or livestock animals.
• Of those 3,625 individual dogs who killed other animals, 2,918––81%––were pit bulls.
• Of dogs who killed other dogs, 90% were pit bulls.
• Of dogs who injured other dogs but did not kill them in reported cases, 83% were pit bulls.
• Of dogs who killed cats, 86% were pit bulls.
• Of dogs who killed other pets and/or livestock animals, 77% were pit bulls.
Other dogs involved
Among 707 other dogs who killed pets and/or livestock animals in reported attacks, about half were not identified by breed or breed type.
Among the rest, German shepherds and huskies were most often involved in killing other pets and livestock animals, among about 20 other breeds reported at least once, but no breed type other than pit bull has come up in significant numbers year after year.
Projected annual totals include the dog attack deaths of an average of 9,899 dogs per year, 8,730 killed by pit bulls; 3,364 cats per year, 2,904 killed by pit bulls; and 13,379 other pets and/or livestock animals per year, 10,250 killed by pit bulls.
Altogether, dogs appear to be killing about 27,186 other pets and livestock animals per year since 2013, 21,886 of them killed by pit bulls.
COVID-19 effect on trend line
Concerning year-to-year trends, and other trends over time, relatively wide annual fluctuations are inevitable in extrapolating from the relatively low number of reported dog attacks on other animals to estimate national totals.
However, the year-to-year trend line since 2013 has approximately paralleled the numbers of reported non-fatal attacks on humans, with a steep drop-off during the “social distancing” years of 2020, 2021, and 2022 occasioned by outbreaks of COVID-19.
Paradoxically, fatal attacks on humans have increased during the “social distancing” years, especially fatal attacks on humans by pit bulls.
This trend will be examined when ANIMALS 24-7 posts the 2022 roster of the human dog attack dead, coming soon.