Dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988

JAMA. 1989 Sep 15;262(11):1489-92. doi: 10.1001/jama.262.11.1489.


By combining data from the National Center for Health Statistics and computerized searching of news stories, we identified 157 dog bite-related fatalities that occurred in the United States from 1979 through 1988. Of the 157 deaths, 70% occurred among children who were less than 10 years of age. The death rate for neonates was almost 370 times that of adults who were 30 to 49 years of age. Pit bull breeds were involved in 42 (41.6%) of 101 deaths where dog breed was reported, almost three times more than German shepherds, the next most commonly reported breed. The proportion of deaths attributable to pit bulls increased from 20% in 1979 and 1980 to 62% in 1987 and 1988. Pit bull attacks were almost twice as likely to be caused by strays as attacks by other breeds. Extrapolated estimates suggest 183 to 204 dog bite-related fatalities from 1979 through 1988. To prevent such deaths, we recommend stronger animal control laws, public education regarding dog bites, and more responsible dog ownership. Parents and physicians should be aware that infants left alone with a dog may be at risk of death.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology
  • Bites and Stings / mortality*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dogs*
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • United States