Are Dog Bites Increasing Across the Country?

It’s clear that dogs have assumed a treasured and prominent role in American culture. Many in Oregon treat their dogs and other pets like true members of the family. Pictures of dogs are commonly shared between families, friends, and on social media. Even in the fictional worlds of television commercials and movies, we routinely see dogs playing a role in people’s daily lives. If you’ve walked in a park recently, you might have even seen a dog being pushed in a baby stroller or pulled in a cart behind a bicycle like a baby. During the holiday season, we sometimes see them dressed up like reindeer or other seasonal characters.

While most of us love pets, there’s a darker side to dog ownership that everyone hopes to avoid. Unfortunately, every year, dog bites and dog attacks occur across the country in the thousands, and some of them cause severe personal injury or even death.

In this article, we’ll examine the trend across the country and whether or not dog bites are increasing.

Dog Ownership and Dog Bites in the United States

According to Canine Journal, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that approximately 4.7 million dog bites occur each year.

Will that number continue to increase? Let’s review some information concerning dog ownership from several sources. But remember, pet statistics can vary tremendously, depending on the organization providing them. 

While the numbers do vary, it’s clear that pet ownership continues to increase. According to the Insurance Information Institute, a whopping 67 percent of American families own a pet, totaling 84.9 million homes. This is an increase from 56 percent in 1988, the first year the organization tabulated the statistic.

Of course, this number includes all types of pets. According to the American Pet Product Association, dogs are present in 63.4 million of these homes. Statista reports that there were 89.7 million dogs in the United States as of 2017.

An interesting source for information on the scope of America’s dog bite problem is the Insurance Information Institute (III). Because homeowner’s insurance often pays claims on behalf of dog owners when their dogs injure someone, III can track the number and value of insurance claims made. The organization’s data shows that from 2016 to 2017, the number of claims for dog bites and other dog-related injuries totaled 18,522 and represented a 2.2 percent increase from the previous year. The dollar value of claims totaled $686.3 million in 2017 and represented a 14 percent increase from the previous year. The average amount paid out per claim in 2017 was $37,051. This is a 93.4 percent increase since 2003.

Types of Injuries

Dog bites can cause the obvious types of injuries that we think about, such as lacerations and puncture wounds. Severe attacks can leave extreme scarring and permanent disability. In some cases, a dog attack can cause the death of a human.

In addition to these types of injuries, the CDC reports that 18 percent of dog bite wounds become infected with bacteria. The CDC further warns that dogs can transmit the following germs to humans (and make them sick):

  • Rabies
  • Pasteurella 
  • MRSA
  • Tetanus
  • Capnocytophaga bacteria

A Dog Bite Victim’s Rights

When a dog owner is negligent and that negligence results in injury to another person, the dog owner can be held liable under tort law. The injured party is entitled to recover the types of damages available in other personal injury actions, such as medical bills, medicine costs, hospital bills, ambulance charges, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Call with Questions

The experienced personal injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are familiar with dog bite law and are happy to answer your questions if you give us a call.


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