Attack animals

A dog on the attack/Wikimedia Commons

Dogs more dangerous than bears?

Alaskans worrying about bear attacks – as many do – might be spending too much time focused on the wrong animal, according to new data coming out of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

It is reporting a skyrocketing tally of people killed by dogs.

“From 2018 to 2021, deaths (of people bit or struck by dogs) more than doubled for both males (from 15 to 37) and females (from 20 to 44),” according to the numbers in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report issued at the start of the month.

The report offered no explanation for the increase to 81 deaths in 2021, the last year in the report, but the number was almost twice the 43 deaths per year average for the decade and continued a rising trend that started in 2017.

Bears killed four people in the U.S. in 2021, which near the annual average since 2020 with slightly more fatalities in the Lower 48 (6) than in Alaska (5), according to a database maintained by Wikipedia. 

Part of the increase in deadly dog attacks could be tied to rising dog ownership in the U.S., as noted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), and part to the inability or unwillingness of some to socialize and/or control their dogs.

In Anchorage, the social media website Nextdoor regularly lights up with reports of dog attacks, though most invovle dogs going after other dogs. Still, a study of fatal dog attacks published in Wilderness & Environmental Medicine in 2009 reported that Alaska had “the highest death rate from dog attacks.”

The data in the study covered the years 1979 to 2005, and the authors noted then that “the number of deaths and death rate from dog attacks appear to be increasing.” That prediction has, unfortunately, proven sadly true.

 Centers for Disease Control (CDC)


More dogs, more dog attacks

The AVMA reported that “the percentage of U.S. households that own at least one dog increased from 38 percent to 45 percent between 2016 and 2020.”

“The increase in the number of households with dogs looks large, but it occurred over a six-year period, which is actually pretty conservative growth,” according to Rosemary Radich, the former principal data scientist for the AVMA Veterinary Economics Division.

Whether the increase is large or small depends to some extent on personal views of what is an appropriate percentage of households with dogs.

Americans already own far more dogs than the residents of any other country, according to World Population Review, but dogs don’t occupy quite as many households as in Brazil.

“It also appears by some reports that dog ownership is on the rise in Brazil, with approximately 50 percent of Brazilians being dog owners,” the website says. “The economy of Brazil is able to sustain a dog life with most of Brazil being a middle-class economy. It is also reported in some sectors that high infertility rates contribute to the high rate of dog ownership in Brazil.

“China is the third country on the list with the most dogs in the world. The Chinese own approximately 27 million dogs in total, with both domesticated and strays becoming important parts of life to the Chinese. Like Brazil, this may have something to do with fertility rates.

“In China, birth rate laws exist where families are not allowed to have more than one child due to overcrowding in the country. Dogs are the next choice for family members for many citizens of China.”

European ownership per household appears much lower. The data website Statista reports dogs in 27 percent of households in Spain, 21 percent of German households, 20 percent in French households, 34 percent of households in the United Kingdom, and 12 percent in Switzerland, while Poland rises to near U.S. levels at 43 percent. 

This didn’t stop Vivid Maps from painting Poland as more a cat-loving country when it ranked pet ownership around the world. France and the United Kingdom joined Spain as dog lovers, apparently because residents in neither of the former countries are as found of pets as peole in the U.S.

Dog-loving country

Vivid’s map painted Alaska, Hawaii and the 48 continental states as part of a big, blue, dog-loving country, while Canada had gone to the cats. But the mapping was hardly scientific.

The website said that a team from Budget Direct Pet Insurance “analyzed Instagram posts using the following hashtags: #ilovecats, #catloversclub, #catlovers, #ilovedogs, #dogloversclub & #doglovers, and then extracting the geolocation data of each post. With this information in hand, they awarded the pet’s victory with the higher share of posts.

“This analysis was done both at a country, state, and city-level to crown the most dog/cat-loving cities in the world. Finally, Budget Direct Pet Insurance produced maps with the highest proportion of dog/cat lovers.”

So, at best, the mapping reflected the countries with the most dog- or cat-loving owners on Instragam, which  might explain that while the U.S. was in general judged a dog nation, 12 states – including Alaska – were said to have more cat lovers than dog lovers.

No business appears to have made an effort to quantify which states are home to more dog haters or cat haters, but the Nextdoor website regularly attracts a lot of attention from people who dislike one, the other or both, although most of the anger is directed at the owners of the animals.

Bears are wild animals that sometimes do what wild animals do. Cats and dogs are domestic animals that are supposed to be under the control of their owners, but in the case of many aren’t.

A San Antonio, Tex., TV station was earlier this month was reporting residents of a neighborhood there had taken to carrying baseball bats for protection from loose dogs after a 68-year-old man was seriously mauled.

According ot KENS5 News, the owner of the dog “told deputies he was aware that multiple neighbors informed him of his dog causing harm but never anything severe.”

He was arrested and charged with causing serious bodily injury to an elderly person, a felony in Texas, and owning a dangerous dog.

NEWS4SA reported the attack came ” just six months after an elderly man was mauled to death by dogs on (San Antonio’s) west side.”



11 replies »

  1. Any dog that shows aggression towards a child or someone weak should be put down the first time no exceptions. Regardless of personal feelings.

    Its all about exposure ratios to a danger and preparedness. Timothy tread well was exposed to bears ,unprepared and he got ate .

    Some people don’t interact with bears or their habitat and their odds of being ate are basically 0 .

    Yet a high percentage of humans interact with and around dogs without adequate protection. They are at a higher risk of injury from dogs than treadwell.

    Exposure to risk ratios.

    • You’ve said a lot of stupid thing, this is probably one of the stupidest “Any dog that shows aggression towards a child or someone weak should be put down the first time no exceptions. Regardless of personal feelings.”

      • Steve o –
        do you use ad hominem style attacks because you have no experience or data to back your position? It seems a go to method for you.

        How do you know what I said was stupid?
        Present data please-
        Present your qualifications to justify your claims.
        Do you feel comfortable enough in your position on aggressive dogs to put them in close contact with infants, women, children and old people?
        Do you take responsibility for the harm that might be caused?
        Do you value aggressive dogs over human lives?
        Why do you take this stance ?

        What qualifications do you have to declare my other statements stupid?

        I know you are hurting because your mask position was proven ineffective. Per many current studies.

        Your Jab position was proven relatively ineffective for young age groups and deadly for some .
        Per many current studies.

        Why do you suggest human endangerment with aggressive dog is acceptable.
        Isn’t there enough kind loving dogs so that it’s unnecessary to keep aggressive dogs?

        Obviously my personal opinion.

        I have better things to do than reply to your personal attacks so this is your bonus reply.

      • You really should try and figure out what an ad hominem attack is and isn’t, you haven’t figured it out yet but I have hope that one day you will.

        Does a barking dog constitue an act of aggression requiring the dog be put down? What you said was stupid. Period. Full stop. End of conversation.

      • Steve-o

        You met the definition of ad hominem attack when instead of presenting data to refute my position you instead chose to –
        “poison” the well by starting with- “you’ve said a lot of stupid things, this is probably one of the stupidest.”

        Your method of ad hominem did two things 1 -it brings up a distraction subject based on me ( he say’s stupid things)( that’s similar ti a derogatory nickname) that doesn’t directly focus on the accuracy of my point of view regardless of who i am or what i did in the past . you shone the lite on me versus my argument. As in he -makes stupid arguments. Which plays into a second part of an ad hominem attack “poison the well” which taints the line of thinking instead of analyzing the evidence or the question.

        So it focuses on me and brings unproven data into the argument that potentially makes a distraction.

        Thus you met the technical definition of a style of ad hominem attack based on a line of thought that goes back to the ancient greeks .

        If you are not fully qualified to make an argument or present for keeping aggressive dogs why don’t you just say so . Nothing lost.
        There are many arguments for keeping such dogs . I can name many. I would strongly disagree with them all though because im of the opinion that even a gaurd dog should differentiate between a threat and a child or kind fragile human. Good dogs sense things beyond most humans ability.
        If they cant then their negative risk over scores their positive benefit.
        Granted thats a strong stance.
        I believe An owner must be able to trust their dog is relative safe even if they are not present if innocent humans are at risk.

        I would argue it’s beyond hard to train a naturally aggressive dog to be trusted at all times.
        What kind of a life will that type of dog be forced to live?
        Have a great day my man.

  2. Reminds me of that old NRA advertisement: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” You could say the same for dogs.

  3. And just like CM, not a word mentioned of the dog lots in the bush or the children who died / got injured when walking into 50 dogs on chains unattended in AK.

    • The discussion topic involves an _increase_ in the numbers and rates of dog deaths.

      Is there evidence, anecdotal or otherwise that dog lot numbers have significantly increased in the Bush in the years discussed? Is there evidence that the percentage of Alaska’s death rate involving dog lots has increased? A quick glance at the easily available literature suggests stable or decreasing levels of dogs and dog lots in the Bush.

      Conversely, does the information presented show an increase in pet ownership in areas of higher human concentration? An increase in reported dog bites and deaths correlative with that pet ownership increase?

      If so, is it not reasonable that the most likely cause of the _increase_ in deaths, the topic of the discussion, is primarily from increased pet ownership, not dog lots?

      • No doubt the number of dog lots have gone down in rural Alaska. Too costly to feed them with commercial food and too much work to feed them in the old way with fish, beaver and whatnot. Meanwhile, the number of urban dogs has gone up.

  4. I continue to appreciate the way you make sense, backed by hard data, around the factors that expose us to the greatest risk. Keep it up, maybe folks are reading and thinking!

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