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Owner issues may affect chance of dog bite

Whether or not certain dog breeds are more likely to attack or bite humans is always a hotly debated issue when a dog bite story breaks. A study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, however, shows that it might not be the breed of the dog that is at fault as much as the owners.

The study looked at 256 fatalities from dog bites in the U.S. from 2000 to 2009 and found that the breed of the dog was validated by DNA testing in only 18 percent of the cases. Forty percent of the dog breeds identified differed from what was record by animal control or reported in the media, showing that the popular idea of only certain breeds of dogs being aggressive may be incorrect. The study identified 20 breeds and two known mixed breeds in the attacks, significantly more than the handful of breeds that often take the media blame for attacks.

The study's data also shows that owners may be more to blame than the genetic makeup of the animal. Eighty-four percent of the dogs in the study had not been neutered, and 76 percent of the animals did not have regular positive human interactions. This shows a possible connection between the animal not being spayed or neutered and exhibiting aggression. It also suggests that owners who don't socialize their dogs properly may be contributing to the chance of an attack.

Inadequate supervision also appeared to be a factor in the majority of the dog bite-related fatalities, with 87 percent of the cases showing that there was no able-bodied person available to intervene when the dog attacked. Eighty-five percent of the victims did not have an adequate level of familiarity with dogs, and 77 percent of victims were shown to have "compromised ability" to "interact appropriately" with the animals.

A dog bite can cause serious injury or death, and it is not always the dog that shoulders most of the blame. Owners must recognize the importance of proper supervision and socialization of their animals to decrease the chance of someone getting bit. In cases in Wisconsin where a person is injured by a dog bite due to owner negligence, the victim may be able to be awarded compensation by the court in a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: pawnation, "Dog Bite Fatalities: Breed or human problem?" Dr. Ken Tudor, May. 05, 2014

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