It’s hard to consider man’s best friend might ever pose a threat to anyone you love. However, if you dig into the research of dog bite statistics, the alarming numbers tell a complicated but clear story.  

Dog bites can range from friendly, playful nips to gnarly and unexpected attacks and often result in hospital visits. 

These bites can be traumatic for young children and deadly for the elderly. Plus, dogs carry diseases and infections that can make it difficult for wounds to heal properly. So, being aware of the danger is important. 

Fortunately, dog injuries are neither the biggest cause of hospitalizations in the US nor a significant cause of deaths. On the other hand, with the growing number of dogs in family households, our role in preventing potential attacks is a critical component. Knowing the statistics and facts gives us the tools we need to face the issue head one. 

So, if you have been bitten by a dog or simply want the answers to some of your dog bite questions, we’ve compiled the most recent information for you. 

Top 10 Dog Bite Statistics

1.  1 in 118,776 Odds of Dying from a Dog Bite

The odds of dying from a dog attack in the United States are more likely than from a lightning strike or flying on an airplane. You’re more likely to die from choking, an accidental firearm discharge, or, surprisingly, a hornet, wasp, or bee sting. (1

2.  4th Deadliest Creature on Earth

Dogs are the 4th deadliest creature on earth. Looking at the average annual number of worldwide deaths, a Statista report shows dogs cause 35,000 human deaths each year (behind #1 mosquitoes, #2 humans, and #3 snakes). (2

3. 89.7 Million Dogs as Pets

The number of dogs kept as pets in the US as of 2017-2018 (3)    

4.  4.7 Million Suffer

The number of individuals who suffered from dog bites annually. This is the last and most quoted count from a 1994 CDC report (4). More recently, according to a randomized survey conducted from 2001-2003, an estimated 4.521 million suffered from dog bites each year. (5)

5.  885,000 Victims

The number of dog bite victims from the same 2001-2003 study cited above that required medical attention(5)

6.  344,202 Emergency Room Visits

The most recent 2018 annual count of emergency room visits for dog bites. The majority of those (31,552 or ) were suffered by 5 to 9-year-olds. (6

7.  9,415 Extended Hospital Stays

 The 2018 count of hospitalized victims of dog bite injuries. None of the individuals hospitalized were younger than 25 years old. (6)

8.  26% of Fatalities Were Children 0-2

 The highest percent of fatal dog attacks were victims aged 0-2 years according to a 13-year period. This study from DogsBite.org is a survey of reported US dog fatalities (2005-2017). (7)

9.  900+ Daily ER Visits

 The average number of daily emergency department visits due to dog bite injuries. (8)

10.  30-50 US Deaths

 The range of deaths each year falls within these two numbers. For 2019, there are 48 confirmed dog bite-related fatalities and (so far) 36 confirmed for 2020 (updated 10/14/2020). You can compare that to an average of 1-2 in Canada each year. (9)

Dog Bite Statistics 2020 by Breed, Bites, Attacks, and More 

11.  46+ Breeds Associated with Fatal Attacks

Over 46 breeds are associated with fatal attacks since 2016, including Akita, Boxer, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher, German Shepherd, Giant Schnauzer, Husky, Labrador Retriever, Mastiff, Pitbull-Type, Rottweiler, and many other breeds and mixes. (10)

Top 10 Most Fatal Dog Breeds Table

Breed Deaths % of Total
Pit bull 284 65.6%
Rottweiler 45 10.4%
German shepherd 20 4.6%
Mixed-breed 17 3.9%
American bulldog 15 3.5%
Mastiff/Bullmastiff 14 3.2%
Husky 13 3.0%
Unknown/unreleased 11 2.5%
Labrador retriever 9 2.1%
Boxer 7 1.6%

Based on 2005-2017 data – data source

Which dog breeds are the most dangerous? 

A common question when it comes to dog bites is:

Which breeds are the most dangerous?

The AVMA or American Veterinary Medical Association conducted an in-depth literature review to analyze existing studies on dog bites and serious injuries. Their findings indicate that there is no single breed that stands out as the most dangerous

According to their review, studies indicate breed is not a dependable marker or predictor of dangerous behavior in dogs. Better and more reliable indicators include owner behavior, training, sex, neuter status, dog’s location (urban vs. rural), and even varying ownership trends over the passing of time or geographic location. 

For example, they note that often pit bull-type dogs are reported in severe and fatal attacks. However, the reason is likely not related to the breed. Instead, it is likely because they are kept in certain high-risk neighborhoods and likely owned by individuals who may use them for dog fights or have involvement in criminal or violent acts. 

Therefore, pit bulls with aggressive behavior are a reflection of their experiences.  

Which dog breeds bite the most? 

According to research published in February 2019 examining dog bite injuries to the face, dogs from 66-100 pounds with short, wide heads are most likely to bite. 

The study includes a review of literature from 1970 to the present day. Their research indicates that the top 6 breeds that are reported along with bite injuries are:

  1. “Unknown” 
  2. Pit Bull
  3. Mixed Breed
  4. German Shepherd
  5. Terrier
  6. Rottweiler

It’s worth noting that these are based on reported biting. Often victims are less likely to report bites or attacks by smaller or medium-sized dogs because the damage isn’t as severe. 

However, that doesn’t mean smaller breeds are less likely to bite. 

So take care and watch out for signs of aggression regardless of the dog’s breed! 

In fact: 

12. 75.5% of Dog Bite Fatalities Meet 4 of 7 Defined Criteria

According to an analysis of data from 2000-2015 by the National Canine Research Council, there are 7 controllable factors related to dog bite fatalities. In dog bite fatalities reported over the 15 year period, 75.5% were found to have 4 or more of the following criteria (11):

  1. No other person around to intervene →  86.9%
  2. The victim had no relationship with the dog → 83.7%
  3. The dog was not neutered or spayed → 77.9%
  4. The compromised physical ability of victim → 68.7%
  5. The dog is kept as a resident dog rather than a family pet → 70.4%
  6. Mismanagement of the dog → 39.3%
  7. Owner’s abuse or neglect of dog → 20.6%

13. 70.4% of Dog Bite Fatalities Were Not Family Pets

Along with the National Canine Research Council’s data study cited above, 70.4% of dog bite-related fatalities from 2000-2015 were not family pets. (11)

14. 243 Bites in Indianapolis by Police Dogs Alone

A national analysis of police dog bites from 2017-2019 found that Indianapolis police dogs have a higher incidence of biting. 

Of the 243 bites, IndyStar reported that 159 were unarmed or non-violent, while 84 were likely armed and considered violent.

For comparison, there are about 28.3 bites for each 100,000 city residents in Indianapolis, while in Los Angeles, there are about 5.3 police dog attacks for every 100,000 residents. (12)

15. 5,803 USPS Employees Attacked in 2019

Every year the USPS releases a report detailing the number of attacks reported by their letter carriers.

The good news is the numbers have consistently fallen in the past two years, meaning that dog safety precautions are increasing.

The report includes the top 20 cities with the most attacks. Number one is Houston, TX, with 85 annual mail carrier attacks. In the second place, Los Angeles with 74 annual attacks in 2019.

16. 66% of Fatal Dog Bite Deaths Caused by Pit Bulls

Dogsbite.org conducted a review of total deaths caused by dogs in the last 15 years. From their data collection, they found 346 of 521 deaths were from pit bull attacks.

Rottweilers made up 10%, followed by German Shepherds, mixed-breed, American Bulldog, Mastiffs, and Huskies.

It’s worth noting, fatal attacks only represent a small portion of dog injuries to humans. (13)

17. 87.4% of Pit Bulls Pass the American Temperament Test

According to the American Temperament Tests Society, many of the top breeds often thought of as dangerous often consistently perform well in their testing. Even those considered dangerous or aggressive by most people often perform incredibly well.

The Temperament Test observes and measures temperament indicators such as stability, friendliness, protectiveness, shyness, and aggressiveness.

87.4% of the 931 American Pit Bull Terriers that tested passed the test. Their results are similar to Collies (80.8% of 896 dogs), German Shepherds (85.3% of 3383), and even higher than Golden Retrievers (85.6% of 813). (14)

According to the current testing data available, the lowest scoring breed is the Bearded Collie with a 56.9% passing rate. It’s worth noting that only 51 Bearded Collies have taken the test.

18. Dog Bites cause 26% of Animal-Related Injuries

According to data taken from a 5-year period of 6,457,534 emergency department visits caused by animal-related injuries, 26% were caused by dog bites. This study looked at data from the US population.

Dog bites were second only to bites from non-venomous arthropods (41%). (15)

19. 50 States Prohibit Organized Dog Fighting

In all 50 US states, organized dogfighting is considered a felony, and even being a spectator at a dogfight is illegal.

Dogfighting is a violent and very lucrative underground market. It is a sad life for a dog. Dogs are raised isolated and chained. Their ears are often cropped, and tails cut off. If you suspect that someone is illegally raising dogs for dog fighting purposes, it’s important to report this type of activity. 

The reality is that even though dogfighting is illegal in most countries around the world, there is still a dogfighting culture that thrives. Animal cruelty is exactly what leads to aggressive dogs and even human fatalities. 

20. 1960 – Risk of Dogs Carrying Rabies Dramatically Decreases

The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report collected rabies reports from an 81 year period: 1938-2018. 

Their work uncovered that while rabies posed a great risk for the US population for many years, after 1960, this risk dramatically decreased. 

Thanks to rabies vaccinations, the threat of rabies infections in humans from dogs (in the US) has all but vanished. 

At present, the threat of rabies as a cause of death, particularly human death, is primarily from rabid bats or dogs imported from countries with a high risk for rabies. (16)

21.  20,000 to 40,000 Years of Domestic Dogs

In July 2019, Stony Brook University published a study providing insight into the origin of our modern dogs

Their work revealed the DNA results of prehistoric dogs from Germany. The findings? 

The ancestors of our modern dogs likely were gray wolves. 

Scientists used the genomes of an ancient European dog, the oldest known remains. How old? 7,000 years old! 

Their work “narrowed” the exact period of domestication to somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago. (17)

Dog Bite Claims Statistics from 2019-2020

Since we are approaching the 90 million number for pet dogs in the US, it’s no surprise that many individuals invest in insurance coverage for their canine pets. For many, dogs are additional family members!

While insurance concerns for pet owners are often based on pet health, it’s important to consider the damage dogs might cause. Insurance companies are well aware of these types of damages. That’s because they experience great losses if homeowners they cover have a dog that bites.

While homeowners and renters insurance policies do typically cover dog bite liability, dog bite injury claims can be costly for them. So, more and more insurance providers find loopholes to evade these situations or even require individuals to sign “dog bite waivers.”

Insurance Information Institute and State Farm recently released their 2019 report. Here are the big numbers to know:

22. $796.8 Million Paid

In 2019, homeowner insurers paid out $797 million to cover dog bite and dog-related injury claims.

That’s a lot of money. It’s a lot of money dedicated to only 17,802 dog bite claims nationwide.

To put it in perspective, 796,800,000 million dollars could buy everyone in the US (about 328.2 million) a tall brewed Starbucks coffee.

23 $44,760: Average cost per claim Nationwide.

Dog bites can cause severe medical injuries and disabilities. They can also cause emotional and economic distress for the individual and the family.

Courts keep many factors in mind when determining the damages incurred. The fact is, dog bites are very traumatic events and can easily cost victims innumerable losses, including medical, physical, economic, psychological, and more.

In California, the average cost per claim is slightly more: $51,264.

The state with the highest average cost per claim is New York State at $55,801.

24. 2,396 Claims in California in 2019

California is the US state with the highest number of dog bite claims in 2019.

While the Golden State may not be the place with the highest percentage of dog owners (according to this data survey, Arkansas ranks #1 for households with dogs), it does have a city with more dogs than children.

According to a 2016 survey, there were an estimated 150,000 dogs in San Francisco and only 120,000 children (under 18).

25. Beyond Claims: 2002 California Murder and Manslaughter Conviction

In 2002 a young woman was attacked and killed in her own apartment hallway by her neighbor’s dogs.

The sad reality is that even within close proximity of our homes, others’ pets can pose a threat.

California courts tried and convicted the dog owners, a woman, and her husband.  They were charged with murder and manslaughter, respectively.  

Coronavirus & Dog Bites

26. 300% Increase in Dog Bites Injuries per 1000 Emergency Department Patients

According to a recent report, dog bites in children surged during and following the Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Order in Colorado.

This is likely due to increased emotional household tensions. Not only are human pet-owners stressed, but the dogs pick up on that stress.

How to protect yourself from dog bites?

Dog behavior is often predicted by the dog owner or the experiences that the dog has lived through. Many dogs have been abused or neglected in some way. These are the types of dogs that bite or attack. 

We can’t stop stressing the importance of always exercising caution around dogs you don’t know. 

If a dog seems threatening, avoid eye contact, and remain calm. Don’t encourage dogs to attack. Dogs that are startled, sick, or injured are more likely to attack. Instead of approaching them or moving them, it’s better to contact someone who can provide the proper care. 

Luckily, our local governments often have restrictions in place to keep residents safe. 

Some city laws have prohibited, or restricted ownership of certain breeds, particularly pit bulls or other dogs bred for weapons. Plus, certain codes such as 17 California Code of Regulations 2606 requires doctors to report dog bites. So, if any dog bites you, make sure you see a doctor—that way, the incident is documented and properly reported. 

While certain statistics may indicate that one breed is more dangerous than another, the truth is that it really just depends. When it comes to an unfamiliar dog, how can you know if they’ve been abused or are untrained?

The bottom line is that any dog has the potential to attack and cause serious injuries. 

So, if you’ve been bitten by a dog and have serious injuries, make sure to get the proper medical treatment as soon as possible.