Science More Data for the Great Slog Pit Bull Debate, ‘08
posted by June 19 at 17:42 PMon
I put this figure together, based on data from a May 1997 MMWR.
Undeniably, more people have been killed by “pit bull” breeds, or dogs with some “pit bull” mixture, than any other breed. This does not prove the breed is bad. Fatality is a combination of a whole variety of factors—age of the victim, size of the dog, the training of the dog and the breed.
Also of note? Nearly two-thirds of fatal attacks involve unrestrained dogs, at the owners house or running wild in the streets.
Fatalities from dog attacks are very, very rare. Vastly more people are bitten by dogs each year, often with enough injury to require medical treatment. It’s much easier to study what leads to a dog bite, accounting for breed, training and so on. A 1994 study in the journal Pediatrics did just that. The money table:
(Click for a larger version.)
“Pit bulls” aren’t included in this study. This study is based on data from Denver, where pit bulls were already banned.
If the matched odds ratio 95% confidence interval is entirely below 1.0, this factor makes a bite less likely to happen. If the interval is completely above 1.0, this factor increases the risk of a bite. If it spans 1.0, the factor doesn’t necessarily increase or decrease the risk of a bite.
Big factors increasing the risk of a bite? Breed. Male dogs. Non-neutered dogs. Big dogs (> 50 pounds). Young dogs (<5 years old). Dogs chained in yards. Dogs that don’t get regular rabies vaccines. Having a child in the house. The owner not bothering to license the dog in the past year.
Reducing the risk? Dog that were ever disciplined by a takedown (holding a dog to the ground, on its back, while holding its neck) or stringup (lifting a dog by its neck chain). That’s it.
Training and discipline didn’t seem to significantly reduce the risk of biting, at least in this study.
Have at it!