Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs

April 2011 | By Bini JK, Cohn SM, Acosta SM, McFarland MJ, Muir MT, Michalek JE; TRISAT Clinical Trials Group

A retrospective review of 228 dog bite victims from 1994 to 2009 from a regional Level 1 trauma center in South Texas. When breed was known (82), pit bulls accounted for 35% of injuries.

Study highlights

  • During the 15-year period reviewed in this study, 228 dog bite injuries were treated by our Trauma and Emergency Surgery Service. Of the 228 attacks reviewed, the breed of dog was reported for 82 attacks. Of those 82 attacks, 29 (35%) were attributed to pit bulls and 53 (65%) were attributed to all other breeds of dogs combined.
  • Our Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services treated 228 patients with dog bite injuries; for 82 of those patients, the breed of dog involved was recorded (29 were injured by pit bulls). Compared with attacks by other breeds of dogs, attacks by pit bulls were associated with a higher median Injury Severity Scale score, a higher risk of an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or lower, higher median hospital charges, and a higher risk of death.
  • Our study showed that the dog bite injuries experienced by patients admitted to our level I trauma center over a 15-year period were severe, as manifested by the fact that nearly one-third of patients required operative intervention. Of particular interest was the fact that pit bulls, which were found to have attacked older persons, and inflicted much more devastating injuries than other breeds of dogs (as indicated by higher median ISSs and a higher percentage of victims with a GCS score ≤ 8), injuries that in some cases led to death.
  • Seventeen states have “one bite” laws that do not hold the dog owner accountable for the actions of a dangerous dog until after the dog has caused harm, at which point it can be considered potentially dangerous or vicious. Twelve states have laws that specifically forbid municipalities to enact breed-specific laws or ordinances. Texas, the state that leads the nation in dog bite fatalities, is a “one bite” state that prohibits breed-specific laws.
  • The unacceptable actuarial risk associated with certain breeds of dogs (specifically, pit bulls) must be addressed. These breeds should be regulated in the same way in which other dangerous species, such as leopards, are regulated. Individual municipalities need the power to enact ordinances that can protect their citizens from this risk. If they are to obtain such power, the issue must be addressed at the local, county, and state legislative levels.
Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs, by Bini JK, Cohn SM, Acosta SM, McFarland MJ, Muir MT, Michalek JE; TRISAT Clinical Trials Group, Ann Surg, April 2011;253:791-797 (View related post).