Dog Bites: Problems and Solutions (Updated)
This policy paper examines the issue of dog bites and addresses the scope of the problem and the severity of injuries. Existing and proposed legal remedies, including breed-specific legislation (BSL), are discussed and evaluated. Recommendations for alternative legislative solutions and preventive education are proposed. The paper also includes a cost/benefit analysis which quantifies the advantages of dog companionship compared to the risk of harm. The original version of this paper was published in 2006. The new version, released in 2014, is now linked below.
From Executive Summary:
“Dog bite-related fatalities (DBRFs) are extremely rare. They account for about 1 in 92,000 (1/1,000 of 1 percent) of deaths in the United States annually. Nonfatal injuries are also relatively uncommon – only 1/10 of 1 percent of emergency room visits. Dog bite injuries are comparable in incidence but less severe than accidents involving many common household objects. Attempts have been made to reduce these small rates of injury still further by prohibiting or otherwise regulating dog ownership on the basis of breed or appearance, presuming some dogs – absent any scientific evidence in support – to be disproportionately dangerous. So such legislation simply arbitrarily eliminates whole groups of dogs with no evidence that they would have ever harmed anyone.
Two types of solutions are proposed in this paper. First, regulatory penalties should focus on people who knowingly keep dogs in clear disregard for public safety, either through lack of appropriate supervision and confinement, mistreatment, or neglect likely to provoke warning signals and biting, or through a lack of precautions taken after an injurious bite has occurred. Second, information should be widely disseminated – especially to children and their parents – about safe ways to interact with dogs, and education for responsible dog guardians should include instruction on sound husbandry, to guide the range of decisions that each guardian makes regarding how to live with and care for a canine companion.”
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