Our social media feeds have been awash with posts on fatal dog attacks across South Africa, with four people, mostly children, killed in dog attacks within a month. The latest attack was on a 37-year-old Port Alfred woman in the Eastern Cape while on her way to work.
While reliable dog bite statistics are difficult to find in South Africa due to, among other factors, under-reporting or non-reporting of bites, the US DogsBite.org has been collecting data on dog bite incidents in order to educate people on the dangers posed by certain breeds of dogs, particularly pit bulls.
DogsBite.org is a research and education non-profit organisation dedicated to conducting research on the growing but under-reported public safety issue of severe and fatal dog attacks inflicted by well-documented dangerous dog breeds.
The organisation aims to educate the public, law enforcement, journalists, attorneys and policymakers on the results of their research “to prevent new life-altering attacks and to improve local, state and national policies to help protect the health and safety of human beings”.
According to a 2020 study published in the journal “Injury Epidemiology”, dog bites ranked as the 13th leading cause of non-fatal emergency department visits in the US.
According to statistics compiled by DogsBite.org, a 15-year study which looked at insurance and medical data from 2005 to 2019 found that 521 Americans died due to dog bite injuries.
The majority of these deaths, 346 (66.4%), were caused by pit bulls, a breed that the organisation firmly supports banning.
The organisation said that “whether a pit bull bites more or less than another dog breed is not the point. The issue is the acute damage a pit bull inflicts when it does choose to bite. The pit bull’s ‘hold and shake’ bite style causes severe bone and muscle damage, often inflicting permanent and disfiguring injuries. Moreover, once a pit bull starts an attack, firearm intervention may be the only way to stop it.”
A total of 129 deaths involved 35 different breeds. Rottweilers accounted for 51 fatal attacks over the 15-year period. Twenty-seven deaths were caused by mixed-breed dogs, 22 deaths by German shepherds and 18 by mastiffs, which include Italian, English, South African and Neapolitan mastiffs, bull mastiffs and mastiff-mixes.
The American bulldog was found to be responsible for 18 deaths, while huskies killed 16 people.