In April 2011, the Annals of Surgery, a highly referenced international surgery journal established in 1885, published a study about severe and fatal injuries inflicted by pit bulls. The study, "Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs," examined the medical records of patients admitted to the level I trauma center of San Antonio University Hospital with dog bite injuries over a 15-year period. The results bore the grim reality of pit attacks.
Objective: Maiming and death dbull injuries.ue to dog bites are uncommon but preventable tragedies. We postulated that patients admitted to a level I trauma center with dog bites would have severe injuries and that the gravest injuries would be those caused by pit bulls.
Design: We reviewed the medical records of patients admitted to our level I trauma center with dog bites during a 15-year period. We determined the demographic characteristics of the patients, their outcomes, and the breed and characteristics of the dogs that caused the injuries.
Results: Our Trauma and Emergency Surgery Services treated 228 patients with dog bite injuries; for 82 of those patients, the breed of dog involved was recorded (29 were injured by pit bulls). Compared with attacks by other breeds of dogs, attacks by pit bulls were associated with a higher median Injury Severity Scale score, a higher risk of an admission Glasgow Coma Scale score of 8 or lower, higher median hospital charges, and a higher risk of death.
Conclusions: Attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the US mortality rates related to dog bites.
The very first pit bull injury study, Pit Bull Attack: Case Report and Literature Review (Texas Medicine, Vol. 84, November 1988), was also published by a group of Texas doctors. This study helped provide critical evidence for the City and County of Denver after it enacted its pit bull ban in 1989. Just as its authors deduced in 1988 -- that the continued development of the pit bull breed would lead to more severe injuries and deaths -- has indeed manifested. (The Denver ban has withstood several court cases filed against it.)
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The authors of the University Hospital study are an impressive group of seventeen. The primaries include: John K. Bini, MD, Stephen M. Cohn, MD, Shirley M. Acosta, RN, Marilyn J. McFarland, RN, MS, Mark T. Muir, MD and Joel E. Michalek, PhD. The TRISAT Clinical Trials Group include trauma faculty members: D. Dent, M. Corneille, S. Wolf. D. Mueller, B. Eastridge, G. Goodwiler, J. Gourlas, J. Oh; M. Bohnenblust, K. McBride and C. Lounden.
"The main findings of this study are that, in comparison to victims attacked by other breeds of dogs, victims attacked by pit bulls have a higher ISS score, a higher risk of an admission GCS score of 8 or lower, fewer hospital-free ad ICU-free days, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death."
"These fighting dogs were bred and trained not to display behavioral signals of their intentions so that they would have an advantage in the ring. For this reason, pit bulls are frequently known to attack 'without warning.'"
"The attack pattern of pit bulls is different from that of other dogs. With other dogs, children are usually at the highest risk of being bitten. In contrast, pit bulls seem to attack adults almost as frequently as they attack children."
"Pit bulls not only are notorious for their indiscriminate attack pattern but also as well known for the tenacity with which they continue to attack.
"The inbred tenacity of pit bulls, the unrelenting manner in which they initiate and continue their attacks, and the damage they cause are the result of both genetics and environment. Therefore, this breed of dog is inherently dangerous."
"As stated by one author, 'Temperament is not the issue, nor is it even relevant. What is relevant is actuarial risk. If almost any other dog has a bad moment, someone may get bitten, but will not be maimed for life or killed, and the actuarial risk is accordingly reasonable. If a Pit Bull Terrier or a Rottweiler has a bad moment, often someone is maimed or killed, and that has now created off-the-chart actuarial risk, for which the dogs and their victims are paying the price.'"
"If the risk of a fatal attack is normalized to Labrador Retrievers and Labrador-mix breeds (the most common registered dog in the United States), the relative risk of death related to pit bull attacks is more than 2500 times higher."
The authors delve into the cost of dog bites in several areas of the study. In one part, they note that in 1995, the charges for hospitalizations that resulted from 469 dog bites totaled $3.4 million in Pennsylvania. "Notably, government payment sources were responsible for 48% of the total costs," states the report. Insurance estimates for 2007 placed an annual cost of dog bites for U.S. home insurers at $356.2 million and total losses may exceed $1 billion annually.
The authors conclude that while fatal dog attacks are rare, there appears a distinct relationship between the "severity and lethality" of an attack and the breed of dog involved. The "actuarial risk" associated with certain breeds of dogs, specifically pit bulls, is unacceptable. The study adds that municipalities must be able to enact ordinances that protect citizens from this risk, and that to do so, local, county and state legislative bodies must address this issue.
Excerpt from Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs:
Dog bites are a serious public health concern in the United States and across the world. They result in substantial emotional and physical trauma and in a substantial economic cost to the victims and to society. Fortunately, fatal dog attacks are rare, but there seems to be a distinct relationship between the severity and lethality of an attack and the breed of dog responsible. The unacceptable actuarial risk associated with certain breeds of dogs (specifically, pit bulls) must be addressed.
Reprinted with permission from www.DogsBite.ORG