Dog Breeds - Attacks Deaths and Maimings
The article below was written by Merritt
Clifton and covers all Dog attacks in America and Canada from
September 1982 to November 13, 2006
The report is compiled by the editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE from press
accounts since 1982, this table covers only attacks by dogs of
clearly identified breed type or ancestry, as designated by
animal control officers or others with evident expertise, who
have been kept as pets. Due to the exclusion of dogs whose breed
type may be uncertain, this is by no means a complete list of
fatal and otherwise serious dog attacks. Attacks by police dogs,
guard dogs, and dogs trained specifically to fight are also
excluded. To see the actual chart of individual breeds and
their attacks please
"Attacks doing bodily harm" includes all
fatalities, maimings, and other
injuries requiring extensive hospital treatment. "Maimings"
permanent disfigurement or loss of a limb. Where there is an
please see footnotes. If there are more "attacks" than
"victims," it means
that there were multiple dogs involved in some attacks. If the
"victims" does not equal the numbers of "deaths" and "maimings,"
it means that some of the victims -- in attacks in which some
people were killed or maimed -- were not killed or maimed.
Airedale/boxer: The only listed attack was by 10 dogs at
Beagle: The fatality was a strangulation caused by
tugging on a leash which was around a child's neck.
Border collie: Involved in 4-dog attack. The other dogs
were two American bull dogs and a mastiff.
Boxer: Fatal attack on 3-week-old infant also involved a
Dauschund: Julia Beck, 87, of Fort Wayne, died 5/15/05,
two weeks after
attack by Dauschund & Lab at home she shared with Michael T.
Kitchen, 48, and Linda A. Kitchen, 57.
Doberman: One miniature pinscher apparently joined two
pit bull terriers in attacking a child.
East Highland terrier: Victim, age 75, died of heart
German shepherd mix: One fatality victim, age 83, was
apparently killed by an overly rowdy greeting. The victim was
knocked down and suffered multiple broken bones, but was not
bitten. The dog had bitten a person on a previous occasion. In
that case, the skin was not broken. Another 83-year-old victim
was killed by either a German shepherd/Labrador mix or a pit
bull terrier, but it was not clear whether both dogs attacked
her, or just one of them. An 18-day-old child was killed in an
attack also involving a pit bull terrier/golden Lab mix.
Golden retriever: One dog responsible for an attack was
accidentally strangled Kaitlyn Hassard, 6, of Manorville, Long
on 1/24/06, by tugging at her scarf.
Jack Russell terrier: Patricia Schneider, 50, of
Discovery Bay, Calif.,
whose spleen had been removed, died in 2/98 of infection, 3 days
receiving infected bite on lip at home of Diane Gardner and
Labrador: Adult victim was attacked in her home by as
many as 23 dogs owned by daughter. The Lab who severely mauled
Jasmine Charboneau, 2, on 7/29/04 in Devils Lake, ND, proved to
Labrador mix: Reports varied as to whether one case was
severe enough to include.
Mastiff: One mastiff attack also involved an attacking
pit bull terrier.
Pit bull terrier: One case involved a dog who assisted in
a killing carried
out by a human. Another case was a 6-year-old girl who was
strangled by a pit bull's chain. An 83-year-old victim was
killed by either
a German shepherd/Labrador mix or a pit bull terrier, but it was
whether both dogs attacked her, or just one of them. One case
woman who was apparently killed by two pit bulls and one
Pit bull/golden Lab mix: One child was killed in an
attack also involving a German shepherd mix.
Pointer mix: Was involved in attack on Iran Menses, 66,
of Los Angeles,
on 5/28/00, along with two pit bull terriers, but apparently did
inflict any of Menses' injuries.
Poodle: Very strange case involved prescription drug use
possibly affecting dog as well as victim.
Rottweiler: Jonathon Chandler, 6 months, of Lancaster,
reportedly crushed in bed by the family Rottweiler. Four other
ages 2-11, were removed from home of Shelly Fisher; case was
investigated as possible negligent homicide. Another case
involved a woman who was apparently killed by two pit bulls and
Wolf hybrid: One adult victim was a small woman who was
defending two children. The other was a small woman, 61, who was
apparently defending her dog. In that instance, the wolf hybrid
was identified as being a wolf hybrid/German shepherd cross,
with the German shepherd configuration dominant. Some experts
are sceptical that the animal had any wolf ancestry at all.
The tallies of attacks, attacks on children, attacks on adults,
fatalities, and maiming on the data sheet must be evaluated in
different contexts. The first pertains to breed-specific
behaviour, the second to bite frequency as opposed to the
severe injuries, and the third to degree of relative risk.
Of the breeds most often involved in incidents of sufficient
to be listed, pit bull terriers are noteworthy for attacking
as frequently as children. This is a very rare pattern: children
normally at greatest risk from dog bites because they play with
dogs more often, have less experience in reading dog behaviour,
are more likely to engage in activity that alarms or stimulates
a dog, and are less able to defend themselves when a dog becomes
aggressive. Pit bulls seem to differ behaviourally from other
dogs in having far less inhibition about attacking people who
are larger than they are. They are also notorious for attacking
seemingly without warning, a tendency exacerbated by the custom
of docking pit bulls' tails so that warning signals are not
easily recognized. Thus the adult victim of a pit bull attack
may have had little or no opportunity to read the warning
signals that would avert an attack from any other dog.
Rottweilers by contrast show a fairly
normal child/adult attack
ratio. They seem to show up disproportionately often in the
killing, and maiming statistics simply because they are both
and very powerful, capable of doing a great deal of damage in
cases where bites by other breeds might be relatively harmless.
Wolf hybrids, German shepherds, and huskies are at the extreme
opposite end of the scale, almost never inflicting severe injury
adults--but it would be a huge mistake to assume that these
similar patterns reflect similar behaviour. They do not. In
shepherds and German shepherd mixes in which the German shepherd
line predominates together amount to 16% of the entire U.S. and
Canadian dog population, according to the data we have on
breed-specific licensing, or just about nine million total dogs.
There are by contrast only about 300,000 recognized wolf
hybrids: about one for every 30 German shepherds.
Relative to their overall numbers, wolf hybrids are accordingly
more likely to kill or maim a child than a German shepherd--and
before even beginning to consider the critical behavioural
German shepherds are herding dogs, bred for generations to guide
protect sheep. In modern society, they are among the dogs of
families with small children, because of their extremely strong
instinct. They have three distinctively different kinds of bite:
guiding nip, which is gentle and does not break the skin; the
grab-and-drag, to pull a puppy or lamb or child away from
danger, which is as gentle as emergency circumstances allow; and
the reactive bite, usually in defence of territory, a child, or
someone else the dog is inclined to guard. The reactive bite
usually comes only after many warning barks,
growls, and other exhibitions intended to avert a conflict. When
come, it is typically accompanied by a frontal leap for the
throat. Because German shepherds often use the guiding nip and
grab-and-drag with children, who sometimes misread the dogs'
intentions and pull away in panic, they are involved in biting
incidents at almost twice the rate that their numbers alone
would predict: approximately 28% of all bite cases, according to
a recent five-year compilation of Minneapolis animal control
data. Yet none of the Minneapolis bites by German shepherds
involved a serious injury: hurting someone is almost never the
In the German shepherd mauling, killing, and maiming cases I
recorded, there have almost always been circumstances of duress:
the dog was deranged from being kept alone on a chain for
prolonged periods without human contract, was starving, was
otherwise severely abused, was protecting puppies, or was part
of a pack including other dangerous dogs. None of the German
shepherd attacks have involved predatory behaviour on the part
of an otherwise healthy dog.
Every one of the wolf hybrid attacks, however, seems to have
predatory. Only four of the fatality victims were older than age
and all three were of small stature. The first adult fatality
was killed in
the presence of her two young sons, whom she was apparently
protect. The second was killed while apparently trying to
protect her dog.
Most of the victims were killed very quickly. Some never knew
hybrid was present. Some may never have known what hit them.
Some were killed right in front of parents, who had no time to
Unlike German shepherds, wolf hybrids are usually kept well
children, and from any people other than their owners. Yet they
found more opportunity to kill and maim than members of any
other breeds except pit bull terriers and Rottweilers, each of
whom may outnumber wolf hybrids by about 10 to 1.
Huskies appear to be a special case, in
that even though they are
common in the U.S., the life-threatening attacks involving them
virtually all occurred in Alaska, the Northwest Territories, the
Labrador, and the northernmost parts of Quebec. In these
regions, huskies are frequently kept in packs, in semi-natural
conditions, and in some cases are even allowed to spend summers
without regular human supervision. Thus many of the husky attack
cases might be viewed more as attacks by feral animals, even
though they technically qualified for this log because they were
identified as owned and trained animals, who were supposed to
know that they were not to attack.
Akitas, Malamutes, and Samoyeds have a similar attack pattern,
but while these are also "northern breeds" commonly used to pull
sleds,most of the attacks by Akitas, Malamutes, and Samoyeds
have occurred in ordinary home situations. Cumulatively, the
northern breeds appear to have
an attack pattern resembling that of wolf hybrids more than that
other dogs--which might merely point toward the numbers of wolf
hybrids who are illegally kept under the pretence that they are
various of the northern breeds.
What all this may mean relative to
legislation is problematic.
Historically, breed-specific legislation has proved very
enforce because of the problems inherent in defining animals for
whom there may be no breed standards, or conflicting standards.
Both pit bull
terriers and wolf hybrids tend to elude easy legal definition;
they be recognized by genetic testing.
The traditional approach to dangerous dog legislation is to
free bite," at which point the owner is warned. On second bite,
is killed. The traditional approach, however, patently does not
addressing the threats from pit bull terriers, Rottweilers, and
hybrids. In more than two-thirds of the cases I have logged, the
life-threatening or fatal attack was apparently the first known
behaviour by the animal in question. Children and elderly people
were almost always the victims.
Truthfully speaking, I do not know how an effective, fair,
enforceable, humane dangerous dog law could be constructed. Any
law strong enough and directed enough to prevent the majority of
life-threatening dog attacks must discriminate heavily against
pit bulls, Rottweilers, wolf hybrids, and perhaps Akitas and
chows, who are not common breeds but do seem to be involved in
disproportionate numbers of life-threatening attacks.
Such discrimination will never be popular with the owners of
especially those who believe their dogs are neither dangerous
nor likely to
turn dangerous without strong provocation. Neither will breed
discrimination ever be acceptable to those who hold out for an
interpretation of animal rights philosophy which holds that all
created equal. One might hope that educating the public against
acquisition of dangerous dogs would help; but the very traits
certain breeds dangerous also appeal to a certain class of dog
owner. Thus publicizing their potentially hazardous nature has
tended to increase these breeds' popularity.
Meanwhile, because the humane community has demonstrated a
unwillingness to recognize, accept, and respond to the need for
of strong breed-specific regulation to deal with pit bulls and
the insurance industry is doing the regulating instead, by means
include refusing to insure new shelters which accept and place
That means a mandatory death sentence for most pit bulls,
why they come to shelters.
This is not a problem for older shelters, which have long
insurer relationships, but it is a hell of a problem for
without long histories of successful and mostly accident-free
predating the present abundance of pit bulls and Rottweilers in
Individual dog owners are also getting clobbered, either with
liability premiums so high that no one can afford to keep pit
Rottweilers, or by inability to find an insurer willing to cover
has such a dog--or any other dog breed with a bad reputation,
not the reputation is deserved. (Compare attacks by pit bulls
by Dobermans here.) This in turn means more pit bulls,
Rottweilers, et al being surrendered to shelters, when their
find rental accommodations or even buy a house because of their
inability to obtain liability insurance.
The humane community does not try to encourage the adoption of
pumas in the same manner that we encourage the adoption of felis
catus, because even though a puma can also be box-trained and
otherwise exhibits much the same indoor behaviour, it is clearly
understood that accidents with a puma are frequently fatal.
For the same reason, it is sheer foolishness to encourage people
regard pit bull terriers and Rottweilers as just dogs like any
matter how much they may behave like other dogs under ordinary
Temperament is not the issue, nor is it even relevant. What is
relevant is actuarial risk. If almost any other dog has a bad
someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or
killed, and the
actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a pit bull terrier
Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or
killed--and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk,
for which the dogs as well as their victims are paying the
Pit bulls and Rottweilers are accordingly dogs who not only must
handled with special precautions, but also must be regulated
requirements appropriate to the risk they