Human fatalities resulting from dog attacks in the United States, 1979-2005

Wilderness Environ Med. Spring 2009;20(1):19-25. doi: 10.1580/08-WEME-OR-213.1.


Introduction: Dog attacks are a major public health concern worldwide. Dogs bite over 4 million people resulting in the hospitalization of 6000 to 13,000 people each year in the United States. Rarely deaths may occur after an attack.

Methods: This study utilized the compressed mortality files from CDC WONDER to evaluate deaths from dog attacks over the 27-year period 1979-2005.

Results: An average of approximately 19 deaths was reported annually from dog attacks during this time period. Males and children less than 10 years of age had the highest rate of death from dog attacks. Deaths have been reported in 49 states with Alaska reporting the highest death rate from dog attacks. The number of deaths and death rate from dog attacks appear to be increasing.

Conclusions: Deaths from dog attacks appear to be increasing as the population of both humans and dogs has increased during this time period. Children have the greatest risk of death. There is a need for a national reporting system on dog bites to fully capture the extent of fatalities and look at risk factors surrounding the attack. The development of effective prevention practices is dependent upon examination of these risk factors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aggression*
  • Animals
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings / mortality*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dogs / physiology*
  • Dogs / psychology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Middle Aged
  • Mortality*
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / mortality*
  • Young Adult