There are hundreds of millions of people in the U.S., and almost as many dogs. Most of the time, the two species get along swimmingly (dogs aren’t called “man’s best friend” for nothing). But dog bites happen, for a variety of reasons, and with a variety of consequences. This article offers a snapshot of dog bite statistics and trends in the U.S. (To learn more about legal claims involving dog bites -- including in depth discussion of the legal liability of dog owners, check out all of the articles in our Dog Bite Injuries section.)
Every year, dogs bite more than 4.7 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Thankfully, the majority of those bites are minor and don’t require any medical attention.
Of the more than 4.7 million people who are bitten by dogs each year, about 800,000 seek medical attention, including about 385,000 people who need to visit a hospital emergency room or other urgent care center.
Most dog bites (about 71%) occur to the victim’s extremities -- fingers, hands, arms, legs, and feet.
An average of 16 people die each year as a result of dog bite injuries (which represents about 0.0002 percent of the total number of people bitten), CDC says.
In 2006 alone, over 31,000 people had to undergo some form of reconstructive surgery after being injured from dog bites, according to CDC figures.
If you’ve got a dog in your home, you’re more likely to get bitten (not very surprising) -- but just how much more likely? According to the CDC, adults who have two or more dogs living in their household are five times more likely to suffer a dog bite, compared with an adult who has no dogs at home.
Children are the most common victims of dog bites. Of the 800,000 people who get medical attention for dog bites every year, approximately half are children. Digging a little deeper on the issue of dog bites involving kids, CDC tells us:
- Children age five to age nine see the highest rate of dog bite injuries, and the bite rate declines as children get older.
- Boys are bitten much more often than girls.
- For very young children (four and younger), about two-thirds of dog bite injuries are to the face, head, or neck.
Every year, insurance carriers pay more than $1 billion in claims over dog bite-related injuries, according to the American Humane Association (AHA).
A chained dog is 2.8 times more likely to bite, says the AHA.
Some data on dog bites that result in fatalities, from a 2000 study in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, which looked at fatal dog attacks over a 20-year period (1979 to 1998) in the U.S.:
- There were 238 fatal dog bite incidents in the U.S. over that period, and at least 25 different dog breeds were involved in those incidents.
- About one-fourth of fatal dog attacks occurred when an unrestrained dog left the dog owner’s property, while 58% of fatal dog attacks occurred when the unrestrained dog was still on the owner’s property.