Ownership of high-risk ("vicious") dogs as a marker for deviant behaviors: implications for risk assessment

J Interpers Violence. 2006 Dec;21(12):1616-34. doi: 10.1177/0886260506294241.


This study examined the association between ownership of high-risk ("vicious") dogs and the presence of deviant behaviors in the owners as indicated by court convictions. We also explored whether two characteristics of dog ownership (abiding licensing laws and choice of breed) could be useful areas of inquiry when assessing risk status in settings where children are present. Our matched sample consisted of 355 owners of either licensed or cited dogs that represented high or low-risk breeds. Categories of criminal convictions examined were aggressive crimes, drugs, alcohol, domestic violence, crimes involving children, firearm convictions, and major and minor traffic citations. Owners of cited high-risk ("vicious") dogs had significantly more criminal convictions than owners of licensed low-risk dogs. Findings suggest that the ownership of a high-risk ("vicious") dog can be a significant marker for general deviance and should be an element considered when assessing risk for child endangerment.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Dogs
  • Female
  • Human-Animal Bond
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Ohio / epidemiology
  • Ownership
  • Risk Assessment*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data*