Dog Bites ‘Surge’ in Recent Years; Multiple Reports Confirm a ‘Startling’ Rise

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Why Have Dog Bites Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Why Have Dog Bites Increased During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Jan 25, 2023

Over 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). And when dog bites occur, the victims often require immediate medical attention. As the AVMA confirms, those more than 4 million annual dog bites lead to over 800,000 Americans undergoing medical treatment for their injuries.

Dog Bites ‘Surge’ in Recent Years

And anyone can be injured in a dog bite or attack. As the AVMA notes, it’s not the breed of the dog that determines potential danger or if the animal will bite. Rather, it depends largely on “the dog’s individual history and behavior.

Multiple reports have confirmed that dog bites have steadily increased since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s take a look at what those reports indicate in the sections below. We’ll also provide information on how to file a dog bite injury civil claim for financial compensation with Dordulian Law Group.

Why are Dog Bites Increasing in the U.S.?

A recent report from the Journal of Pediatrics noted that dog bites in children have ‘surged’ during the pandemic.

“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and governmental directives to shelter-in-place, dog bite rates seem to be increasing. Our children’s hospital has experienced an almost 3-fold increase in rates of visits to the pediatric ED because of dog bites since our statewide “stay-at-home” order was instituted. High rates have persisted even amid recent relaxing of these regulations. To date, our institution’s incidence of ED visits for dog bites is more than double that of summer rates, when these injuries are typically most common,” the report said.

The increase in dog bites may be, at least in part, the result of more people choosing to bring the animals into their homes as pets. As a Forbes report indicated, in 2020, nearly 500,000 fewer animals were turned in to shelters. Additionally, more than 11 million families brought new pets home that year.

However, as the Forbes report notes, the increase in pet ownership may come with a “downfall” which could include a direct correlation in dog bites. And in many cases, those dog bites are severe enough to require surgical repair.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons provided statistics on the increase in major dog bites requiring reconstructive surgery. Those figures include:

  • In 2019, 43,215 cases of dog bites requiring surgery were recorded.
  • In 2020, that number rose to 47,454.
  • The increase represents a 10% change from year-to-year.
  • From 2000 to 2020, the increase in dog bites requiring surgical repair has accounted for an overall 10% change.

The American Society of Plastic Surgeons defines such dog bite injury surgeries as “reconstructive procedures.

Factors Contributing to an Increase in Dog Bites

Factors Contributing to an Increase in Dog Bites

Forbes interviewed Cortney Briggs, head dog trainer at Zoom Room, which offers group classes and private trainings for pet owners. Briggs cited the recent increase in pet adoptions combined with the forced decrease in dog training and socialization opportunities (as a result of pandemic shutdowns) as creating a “perfect storm for an increase in dog bites.

“There are now more humans with more dogs than ever before, but with less training and socialization than in pre-COVID circumstances,” Briggs told Forbes. “So dogs, as well as humans, did not get the training they needed to avoid situations where bites could occur.”

Furthermore, the Forbes article noted that “the circumstances surrounding the pandemic have also contributed to a rise in fearful behaviors from dogs who haven’t been given the opportunity to acclimate to new situations and people.

Michelle Burch, DVM, of Safe Hounds Pet Insurance told Forbes that aggression in dogs can be exacerbated by isolation and a lack of experience interacting with other humans.

Fear of a novel situation will then lead to aggression as a form of protection,” Burch explained. “The fearful aggression will cause an increase in bites, especially with younger children that do not know the warning signs.”

Additionally, researchers with the Journal of Pediatrics identified the following factors which may have contributed to the rise in dog bites:

  • Increased child-dog exposure earlier in the year because of shelter-in-place regulations
  • Heightened stress for dogs as they pick up on amplified household stress
  • Decreased adult supervision around dogs and children as adults juggle increased responsibilities at home

Dr. Cinnamon Dixon, an attending physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado – where nearly three times as many children with injuries from dog bites were treated in early 2020 – expressed concern over the high rates continuing after the pandemic stay-at-home orders were discontinued.

Dogs can be amazing companions and enrich our lives in so many ways; however it’s important to remember that any dog can bite given the right circumstance,” Dixon said. “Recognizing the intense pressures and responsibilities that families are under, it is critical that parents and caregivers of children prioritize the best way to prevent dog bites – which is to always, always supervise infants and children whenever they are near a dog.”

Dixon recommended certain steps for parents to take in an effort to protect children from dog bites:

  • Teaching children to never disturb a dog who is caring for puppies, eating, or sleeping;
  • Never reach through a fence to pet a dog;
  • Never run from a dog.

Dr. Dixon said it’s important for dog owners to keep their pets healthy, maintain routine veterinary care, and properly train and socialize the animals, according to a report from Circle Health.

How are Dog Bite Injuries Classified?

Dog bites are classified by severity:

  • Level 1: The dog’s teeth do not touch the victim’s skin
  • Level 2: The dog’s teeth touch (but do not break) the victim’s skin
  • Level 3: There are one to four shallow puncture wounds in the victim’s skin
  • Level 4: One to four punctures from a single bite exist (and at least one puncture wound is deep)
  • Level 5: Multiple bites (including some deep puncture wounds) are visible – typically from a dog attack

If you’ve suffered a dog bite injury, health officials recommend assessing the severity of the wound. If there is no bleeding, you should wash the bite thoroughly with soap and water immediately after the incident. If the wound is bleeding, pressure should be applied.

What Should I Do After a Dog Bite?

Regardless of the severity of your dog bite injury, a thorough examination by a licensed physician is recommended. Prior to the medical exam, try to keep the wound above the level of your heart. This can help prevent swelling as well as infection. Additionally, keep the wound covered with a bandage until you are evaluated by a medical professional.

Seeking medical treatment after a dog bite can be an essential part of recovering financial compensation in an eventual civil claim. A medical exam establishes an official record of your injuries and can be beneficial to helping you secure a maximum damages award.

While all dog bite injuries should be examined by a doctor, there are certain types that can necessitate immediate treatment.

Not seeking medical care can be detrimental to a victim’s health in any of the following situations:

  • The wound does not stop bleeding after 15 minutes of pressure being applied.
  • The bite has visibly broken the skin. In such cases, a tetanus shot may be required to reduce the possibility of tetanus infection (this can vary depending on when the victim last received a tetanus shot booster).
  • The victim was bitten by a feral or stray dog.
  • The animal’s immunization records from the owner are not available.
  • The victim has a weakened immune system (this could be due to an illness like diabetes, or a specific medical treatment such as immunotherapy/chemotherapy).
  • Signs of infection – redness, warmth, pus, or swelling – are present.

A doctor may prescribe antibiotics for some dog bites. Additionally, if the dog is suspected to have rabies, the injured victim may require a series of vaccinations. Rabies is 100% preventable, but only through the specified sequence of vaccines administered by a medical professional.

How to File a Dog Bite Injury Claim for Financial Compensation

When dog bite injuries happen, many victims are hesitant to file a civil lawsuit seeking to recover financial compensation. As a victim, if the dog owner is a friend or family member, you may be uncomfortable with suing someone you know and care about. However, it’s important to remember that the vast majority of dog bite claims are covered by the pet owner’s insurance policy.

Homeowner’s insurance and even renter’s insurance policies often help cover various dog bite-related damages, such as:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Hospital bills
  • Medical care costs (past and future)
  • Scarring or disfigurement
  • Reconstructive surgery
  • Punitive damages

To speak with a Dordulian Law Group (DLG) Los Angeles-area dog bite lawyer about your case, contact us today at 866-GO-SEE-SAM. DLG was founded by Sam Dordulian, a former Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County who has been fighting for justice on behalf of injured victims for more than 25 years.

Our experienced attorneys can help you pursue a financial award for your personal injury case. Contact us online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Dordulian and his team of California dog bite attorneys have helped injured victims secure over $100,000,000.00 in settlements and verdicts.

Contact us today to get the justice and maximum financial compensation you deserve for your dog bite injury.


Go See Sam