There were almost 4.5 million dog bites in the United States during 2012.
Almost one in five of those people bitten – 885,000 – required medical attention.
Between 2005 and 2012 there were 251 people in this country who were killed as the result of dog bites. Of those, 151 or 60 percent were killed by pit bulls even though the breed accounts for roughly one percent of the nation’s dog population. Next on the list is Rottweilers at 32 deaths or 13 percent of all dog bite fatalities.
In 2012, four Californians died from dog bites.
Some 27,000 of those bitten each year undergo reconstructive surgery.
Those are all statistics gleaned from a rather neutral source – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Insurance Information Institute reports there were $497 million in payouts for dog bite claims in 2012, up from $413 million the previous year. State Farm Insurance alone had 3,800 claims costing $109 million in 2011 compared to 3,500 claims costing $90 million in 2011.
California in 2012 had 527 of those claims costing insurers $20.3 million.
I’ve been bitten three times (we’re not talking nipped) and charged three times by aggressive or vicious dogs. Two bites required medical attention. The worst, ironically, was by a Chihuahua that a lady near a school let out her front door to do its thing which ended up being taking a bite out of my heel and drawing blood I was jogging in the street.
The most recent incident involved being charged by pit bulls. Once was in my front yard as I was watering with my back turned. A neighbor prevented the attack. The other – also in my neighborhood – was a loose pit bull who charged both myself and my two Dalmatians as I was walking them on a leash.
I’ve been much more fortunate than others including an elderly man who was mauled a few years back while walking near a city park. There are cases every year of kids being attacked — and needing surgery — from dogs of all breeds.
There are definitely vicious dogs in the Valley.
But you don’t know where they are until you are attacked or charged by them.
Orange County Supervisors are mulling putting in place a website accessible map that informs citizens exactly where known vicious and potentially dangerous dogs reside.
Orange County had 2,384 dog bites in 2012, up from 2,281 the previous year.
Currently there are 150 dogs vicious and potentially dangerous dogs in Orange County that have been identified by law enforcement. Those dogs declared vicious have either killed or maimed someone. Potentially dangerous is defined as a dog that has charged or attacked someone on two separate occasions over three years.
It is obvious that leash laws, neutering and spaying ordinances and such are far from 100 percent effective. The same is true of sexual predator laws. Megan’s Law at least gives you the chance to be aware of sex predators in your neighborhood. The same could be said of a vicious and potentially dangerous dog site.
While pit bulls are the No. 1 focus of vicious and potentially dangerous dog concerns, it is true that by far all pit bull dogs aren’t vicious. But due to the way they are built they have the potential to be the most dangerous. Add to that irresponsible owners and you have all the ingredients for a tragedy.
Yes, irresponsible owners are guilty here. But that said, people still have the right to be made aware of when such a dog who was more likely than not was conditioned to be vicious and dangerous by their owner lives nearby.
Such a website could also go a long way to cleaning up the tarnished image of pit bulls by culling out the bad apples created by bad owners. I did not report either charge by the pit bulls to law enforcement authorities. In both cases there were witnesses that could collaborate the incident.
As such, those incidents would have qualified to make the dog that I believe was the same in both cases as one that is identified as potentially dangerous under the rules as outlined by Orange County.
A website would raise the awareness of potentially dangerous dogs and prompt more people to report incidents. The next logical step would be an ordinance where a potentially dangerous dog that has three such verified incidents that involve a bite or charging verified by independent witnesses reported against them is then taken from their owner and not returned.
Consider it a canine “Three Strike” law.
The city could work with rescue operations for the specific dog breed to see if they can be taken and possibly trained not to be vicious. The dogs definitely wouldn’t be returned to the community or anywhere else for that matter unless they receive retraining.
If they can’t be retrained, then they need to be put down.
I like dogs. My two nutso Dalmatians attest to that.
But I have no right to imperil the heath and lives of others by being an irresponsible dog owner.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Journal or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.