Fatal Dog Attack Statistics
DogsBite.org recorded 36 fatal dog attacks in 2018. Pit bulls contributed to 72% (26) of these deaths -- over 8 times more than the next closest breed, "mixed-breed," with 3 deaths. Nine different dog breeds contributed to lethal attacks in 2018. Two deaths were unreported, but were captured through our records requests. The last time the CDC collected "breed" data about dogs involved in fatal human attacks was 1998. Pit bulls have killed over 370 Americans since.
- 36 U.S. dog bite-related fatalities occurred in 2018. Despite being regulated in Military Housing areas and over 900 U.S. cities, pit bulls contributed to 72% (26) of these deaths. Pit bulls make up about 7% of the total U.S. dog population.
- During the 14-year period of 2005 to 2018, canines killed 471 Americans. Two dog breeds, pit bulls (311) and rottweilers (47), contributed to 76% (358) of these deaths. 33 different dog breeds contributed to the remaining fatal dog maulings.
- In the year of 2018, the combination of pit bulls (26), rottweilers (2) and mastiff-type guard dogs and war dogs (4) -- the types used to create "baiting" bull breeds and fighting breeds -- accounted for 89% (32) of all dog bite-related fatalities.
- See full report: 2018 U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Statistics - DogsBite.org
- News release: Nonprofit Releases 2018 Dog Bite Fatality Statistics and Trends from the 14-Year Data Set (2005 to 2018)
Data Collection Method: How We Collect U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Data
DogsBite.org - From June 2018 to March 2019, our nonprofit sent out public records requests to 14 different jurisdictions regarding fatal dog maulings in 2018. In these filings, we uncovered two unreported fatal dog maulings, one in Nevada and California. Both fatal dog attacks were perpetrated by family pit bulls. These filings are also the primary reason why our annual and combined year statistics were not released in late February, our usual publishing timeframe.
In 2018, there was a surge in female victims, a surge in rescued or rehomed dogs killing a person, a surge in owner-directed fatal attacks (when a dog kills its owner), and the continued trend of adult deaths surpassing child deaths. Since 2016, we have been reporting on the rise of adult victims. In 2018, persons (≥ 10 years) comprised 58% of deaths. This is over a 90% increase from the early CDC study period (1979-1988) when only 30% of fatality victims were ≥ 10 years.1
This year, when examining 14 years of fatal dog attack statistics, we review a table and chart. The table is divided into 3 periods that examines multiple trends and the percent change between the 1st and 3rd periods. The dual pie chart shows the increasing domination of pit bulls in fatal dog attacks, accounting for 73% of deaths from 2013 to 2018, and indicates that only two categories may be relevant in fatal dog attack statistics in the future: pit bulls vs. all other dog breeds.
Surge in Female Victims Metric Shift
2018 marks the highest death count on record for female victims of fatal dog maulings. 78% (28) of all fatality victims were female. The breakdown is as follows, with males historically dominating child deaths (≤ 9 years): 0-9 years, 80% female (12 of 15) deaths; 19-49 years, 83% female (5 of 6) deaths; and 50-70+ years, 73% female (11 of 15) deaths. Of the 10 owner-directed fatal attacks in 2018, females comprised 80% of these victims, whose ages spanned from 28 to 64 years.
Of the 16 adult females killed by dogs last year, 31% (5) involved a husband returning home to find his wife dead or nearly dead due to a vicious family dog attack. In 2 cases, Kentucky and Texas, the dog had previously attacked the female. The Kentucky case resulted in the husband being charged with wanton endangerment in the second degree, but a grand jury later dismissed the charge. 75% (12) of the attacks involved pit bulls, 19% (3) mastiff-types and 1 rottweiler.
The rise in female fatalities is also reflected in the multi-year trend table: Trends: 14 Years of U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities in 3 Periods (2005 to 2018). The chart depicts 3 periods (5, 5, and 4-years) and examines the change between the 1st and 3rd periods. From 2005 to 2009, females made up 46.3% of dog bite fatality victims. This climbed to 56.6% in the third period (2015-2018), a 22% rise. Two age groups, 30-49 and 50-69, had significant rises, 108% and 91% respectively.
Rescue Dog-Inflicted Fatalities
2018 shows that rescued or rehomed dogs accounted for nearly 20% (7) of attacks resulting in human death; 57% (4) of these dogs were vetted by an animal shelter prior to adoption. Pit bulls inflicted 71% (5) of these deaths, including a pit bull on "death row" in West Virginia that killed its 64-year old adopter within 14 days. Susan Sweeney, 58, was killed even faster. Just days after her family adopted a mastiff-mix from The Animal Foundation in Las Vegas the dog brutally killed her.
Infant Khloe Williams was supposed to be "in good hands" while in the Florida foster care system. Her foster parent was a police detective too. But a female dog adopted from Pinellas County Animal Services 7 months earlier destroyed her. The dog belonged to the detective's mother, who was babysitting the child. The pair of male pit bulls that killed Bradley Cline, 62, in Nevada belonged to his son, who had adopted them from the Henderson Animal Shelter 8 months earlier.
The multi-year trend table shows that rescued or rehomed dogs involved in fatal maulings has increased by over 600% between the 1st and 3rd periods. Though the numbers are small, 3 deaths jumping to 21, it should serve as a "wake up call" to the shelter and rescue communities. Prior to 2010, fatal attacks inflicted by rescue dogs was an anomaly. If this growth rate persists, by 2023 rescue dog-inflicted fatalities will account for over 35% of fatal attacks within a single year.
Surge in Owner-Directed Attacks
Of the 10 owner-directed fatal attacks in 2018, 80% (8) killed adult females. Other attributes include: 3 deaths involved rescued or rehomed dogs; 2 deaths involved a married couple breeding Dogo argentinos when of one of the male dogs attacked and killed the owner's wife;2 2 deaths involved an owner being fatally injured while trying to break up a dogfight (both victims were male); and 3 deaths involved a longtime family pit bull suddenly, and brutally, killing it's female owner.3
The multi-year trend table shows that owner-directed fatal attacks increased by 67% between the 1st and 3rd periods. During the 3rd period (2015-2018), rescued or rehomed dogs were involved in one-third (8 of 24) of these fatal maulings. Pit bulls inflicted 67% (16) of these attacks followed by mastiffs (3), Dogo argentinos (2), rottweilers (2) and 1 mixed-breed. The combination of dangerous dog breeds and rescue pit bulls promises a continued rise in owner-directed attacks.
Adult Fatalities Continue to Rise Metric Shift
2018 marks another year when dogs killed more adults than children, 58% and 42% respectively. One can see by viewing the previous CDC study periods the dramatic change in the ages of victims killed by dogs. Children 0-9 years formerly dominated victims with 70%. This has since dropped to 40%. Since 2005, the fastest rising age group among adults is 50-69. We also know from the multi-year trend table that females within that age group have nearly doubled.
As children 0-9 years continue to fall over the 3 periods, 52%, 50% and 40%, and children 0-2 years continues to fall as well, 30%, 27% and 23%, there is still a painful eyesore. Infant deaths (< 1 year) are rising. Fatal infant attacks increased by 29% between the 1st and 3rd periods. During the 3rd period, infants comprised 15% of fatal dog mauling victims. Children 5-9 years, predominantly male victims, remained at a persistent level, making up 12% of all fatality victims.
Pit Bull Victims by Age Groups
By viewing the full 14-year data set, one sees that pit bulls heavily contribute to the rising number of adult deaths. From 2005 to 2018, 53% of all victims (248 of 471) were adults ≥ 10 years. Pit bulls accounted for 73% (181 of 248) of these deaths. Unlike other dog breeds, pit bulls kill in every age group. They also kill more adults than children, 58% (181) v. 42% (130) respectively. It is also noteworthy that half of all infants killed by dogs since 2005 were struck down by pit bulls.
|Pit Bull Deaths||30||40||25||35||21||41||64||55||311|
|% Pit Bulls||49%||62%||57%||66%||88%||73%||74%||67%||66%|
Pit Bulls Increasingly Dominate Fatalities
The last chart we examine breaks the 14-year period into two parts, 8 and 6-years respectively, and shows the increasing number of fatal dog attacks inflicted by pit bulls over the last 6 years. From 2013 to 2018, pit bulls were involved in 73% of dog bite fatalities, despite only making up 7% of the total U.S. dog population. During this same period, rottweilers fell to 6%, placing them in close proximity to German shepherds (5%), mastiff/bullmastiffs (4.6%) and mixed-breeds (4.6%).4
Deadly attacks inflicted by rottweilers are predictable; the breed has already killed two young children in 2019. Yet, the rate of these attacks has slowed since 2007. The estimated population of rottweilers is 2.4% (average of last 3 years) and nearly 3 times lower than the pit bull population. Despite being in close proximity to several other breeds over the last 6 years, over the 14-year period, rottweilers still account for over twice as many deaths as German shepherds.
Summary and Call-to-Action
14 years of fatal dog bite statistical data is sufficient to evaluate the "breed-specific" issue. Pit bulls dramatically dominate attacks causing death, especially over the last 6 years, inflicting 73% of all deaths. The last time the CDC examined this issue was during the last century. Vigorous research, however, is ongoing across the country at Level 1 trauma centers regarding severe nonfatal dog bite injuries. The majority of these scientific studies also point to pit bulls as the leading culprit.
The multi-year trend table shows the dramatic change in the ages of victims of fatal dog maulings since the CDC study years (1979 to 1998). Over the last 4 years, adults have made up the majority of fatal dog attack victims, 60% vs. 40% children. Adults 50-69 years now comprise 24% of all victims; this is an 82% rise between the 1st and 3rd periods. Combined, females in the 30-49 and 50-69 age groups, now also make up nearly a quarter (24%) of all dog bite fatality victims.
Females made up 38.8% of fatal pit bull mauling victims from 2005 to 2009. This rose to 53.8% in the third period (2015-2018), a 39% rise.
Our call to action this year is simple: Do not adopt a pit bull or any fighting breed from a shelter or rescue, especially if you are a woman. Do not allow your family or friends to either. Attorney Kenneth Phillips of DogBiteLaw.com has been sharing this same message in videos since early 2018, usually with a Super Bowl theme (See: 2018 and 2019). In March, he also created a video directed at women because females are now the most frequent victims of pit bull violence.
Additional Annual and Combined Year Statistical Graphics (2005 to 2018)
Data Collection Method: How We Collect U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Data
2The deaths of Jenna Sutphin, 28-years old (Huntington, MD), and Kristie Kelley, 44-years old (Greenville, TX).
3The deaths of Hong Saengsamly, 49-years old (Milwaukeem, WI), Della Riley, 42-years old (Cincinnati, OH) and Angela Smith, 55-years old (District of Columbia).
4During the 6-year period (2013 to 2018), canines killed 218 people. The top 5 killing breeds were: pit bull 72.9% (159), rottweiler 6.4% (14), German shepherd 5% (11), mastiff/bullmastiff 4.6% (10) and mixed-breed 4.6% (10).
05/03/19: Trends: 14 Years of U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities in 3 Periods (2005 to 2018)
04/21/19: 14-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart by Breed (2005 to 2018)
04/21/19 14-Year U.S. Dog Bite Fatality Chart by Age Groups
01/08/19: 2018 Fatal Dog Attack Breed Identification Photographs
Recent multi-year reports:
- U.S. Dog Bite Fatalities: Breeds of Dogs Involved, Age Groups and Other Factors Over a 13-Year Period (2005 to 2017)
- Level 1 Trauma Center Studies Characterizing Dog Bite Injuries Across Major U.S. Geographical Regions (2011-2018)