Why are Dog Bites Rising Across the Country?

Instances of dog bites are on the rise in Illinois and across the country. In 2016, a woman was found dead in Illinois after being attacked by dogs. Last year, a pit bull brutally attacked and killed a 77-year-old woman in Alsip, Illinois. The pit bull was a pet in the woman’s home.  In 2015, 34 dog bite-related fatalities occurred in the United States. In comparison, from a period of 1979 to 1994, 279 dog bite-related fatalities occurred in the United States. That comes down to an average of 18 dog bite-related fatalities occurring annually during that time period. During 1995-1996, at least 25 people died as the result of a dog bite-related injury. Many more dog bites have occurred without a fatality resulting. According to the Centers for Disease Control, studies found that there were approximately 4.5 million dog bite victims per year in the United States. Of these annual dog bites, 885,000 dog bites (1 in 5 bites) are serious enough to require medical attention. In 2001, an estimated 368,245 people were treated by emergency room physicians for dog bite-related injuries. In the United States, Illinois is the 2nd highest state for Dog Bite Complaints. In 2015, insurance company State Farm paid out over $118 million in dog bite claims.

According to Dog Bite Law, instances of dog bites have increased in both frequency and severity. There was a 36% increase in medically attended bites from 1986 to 1994. Since then, that number has increased dramatically. There was an 86% increase in hospitalizations because of dog bites from 1993 to 2008. The number went from 5,100 hospitalizations in 1993, to 9,500 in 2008. The average cost of treatment was estimated to be $18,200 per patient. The cost of treatment was calculated by including medical treatment such as emergency room visits, doctors’ visits, and plastic surgery reconstruction.

The breeds of dogs most prone to dog bites and dog bite fatalities are Pit Bulls, American Bulldogs, and Rottweilers.  In 2015, pit bulls (28 dogs) and Rottweilers (3 dogs) accounted for 91% of dog bite fatalities.  Even those these breeds are most prone to bite, other breeds can be responsible for dog bites as well.

According to Canine Journal, approximately 92% of fatal dog attacks involved male dogs, of which 94% were not neutered; approximately 25% of fatal dog attacks involved dogs that were chained or otherwise restrained in some way; approximately 75% of dog bites occurred on the victim’s property, and most victims knew the dog responsible for the attack.

Municipalities are not able to keep up with increases in dog bites through laws or ordinances. For example, the City Council in Joliet is dissatisfied with its current dog bite ordinance. In February 2016, Joliet resident Stewart Warren was walking her two Yorkshire terriers on a Saturday when a pit bull attacked them. Because the attack happened on a Saturday, the pit bull was allowed to remain in the neighborhood. A final version of a new Joliet city ordinance on vicious and dangerous dogs, such as pit bulls, does not address what happens immediately after a dog attacks another person or animal. Under the ordinance, if an animal attack happens at night or on the weekend, because Joliet’s animal control is not available to pick up the dangerous dog, the dangerous dog is allowed to remain in the neighborhood until an animal control officer is available to pick up the dog during business hours.

Anyone bitten or attacked by a dog should go directly to the emergency room and receive proper medical treatment. A dog bite victim should always contact the local county animal control to file a report. For more information about dog bites and animal attacks, visit our page HERE. If you or someone you know has been attacked by a dog, contact DuPage County dog bite lawyers at John J. Malm & Associates to learn more about how you may be entitled to receive compensation for your injuries.