The objective of this study was to elucidate the etiology and frequency of deaths in the United States from encounters with animals. The number of deaths from venomous and nonvenomous animals is reported annually to the US Department of Health and Human Services and published in Vital Statistics of the United States. This study is a survey of all animal-related fatalities listed as E-codes 905-906 reported in the Vital Statistics of the United States from 1979 through 1990. Data were extracted uniformly from the annual reports and analyzed using descriptive statistics. From 1979 through 1990, there were 1882 animal-related deaths in the United States. Venomous animals caused 718 deaths; nonvenomous animals caused 1164 deaths. Most deaths occurred among white males. The home site was the location of injury for the majority of deaths. The majority of venomous animal-related deaths were from hymenoptera; "other specified animal" caused the majority of nonvenomous deaths. An annual average of 157 deaths from animal attacks occurred in the United States between 1979 and 1990. Both fatal and nonfatal animal-related injuries are under-recognized public health hazards. Health care providers should educate their patients on exercising caution around animals, seeking medical care after an animal injury, carrying epinephrine kits if they have a history of systemic reactions to insect stings, and wearing helmets and other protective equipment when riding or working around large animals.