Medical Studies of Pit Bull Injuries and Deaths in the USA and Canada

Articles on the frequency and severity of injuries and deaths from pit bull attacks in peer-reviewed medical journals, USA and Canada

Doctors are sounding the alarms and now calling pit bulls a “public health crisis.”

Dr. Robert Lober, a Pediatric Neurosurgeon in Ohio, says: “In my mind, this is an epidemic.”

Peer-reviewed papers from doctors documenting the public health and safety dangers of pit bulls are rapidly accumulating. Below are over 25 papers since 2012 from peer-reviewed medical journals. The consensus from the literature concludes that compared to attacks by all other types of dogs, the number of pit bull attacks is disproportionately greater and they cause disproportionately more damage and death.

Medical studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals (also known as refereed or scholarly journals are evaluated by an anonymous panel of experts for proper use of research methods, population sampling, significance of the paper’s contribution to the existing literature, and proper integration of previous work on the topic (including citations). Unlike papers published by organizations such as animal welfare groups, studies published in medical journals are the most authoritative sources of information on a topic.

By any standard, this is clear and conclusive medical evidence. Less was used to establish a consensus that cigarettes caused lung cancer, and political action was required.

Lastly, note that animal welfare organizations will cite a few older, outlying papers dating from 2011 and prior before these groups began the heavy promotion of pit bulls. Dr Laura E. Marusinec, a pediatrician in Wisconsin, urges media and politicians to stop taking safety advice about pit bulls from the animal welfare industry, saying, “Would you listen to the tobacco industry about the safety of smoking?”

Veterinary World, 2020

A look at the incidence and risk factors for dog bites in unincorporated Harris County, Texas, USA
There were 6683 dog bites reported to HCVPH between the years of 2013 and 2016. Dogs with the primary breed of Pit Bull had the greatest frequency of bites (25.07%). Bites were more common from intact dogs. Persons aged 70+ had the greatest incidence of severe injury.

Journal of Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology and Oral Radiology, 2020

Facial dog bites treated at the Massachusetts General Hospital over a 20-year period
The majority of patients were adults, most dogs were known, and provocation was recorded 64.5% of cases. Bites were preceded by the following behaviors: playing with the dog, feeding the dog, and placing the face close to the dog. Pit bulls led in the number of bites.

Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 2020

Dog-Bite Injuries to the Craniofacial Region: An Epidemiologic and Pattern-of-Injury Review at a Level 1 Trauma Center
The data showed that compared with other dog breeds, pit bull terriers inflicted more complex wounds, were often unprovoked, and went off property to attack.

Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2019

Epidemiology, Socioeconomic Analysis, and Specialist Involvement in Dog Bite Wounds in Adults
A total of 189 adults presented to the emergency department with dog-bite-related injuries. The most common breed of dog identified was pit bull (47.5%).,_Socioeconomic_Analysis,_and.32.aspx”

Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 2019

Pediatric dog bite injuries in Central Texas
Injuries often involved the head–neck region (92.1%), and 72.5% were of major severity. Pet dogs were responsible for 42% of injuries, and pit bull was the most-identified breed.

Canadian Journal of Emergency Medicine, 2019

Dog bites in the emergency department: a descriptive analysis
A total of 475 dog bites were identified. Pit-bull type was the most frequently implicated breed (27%).

International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, 2019

Dog bite injuries to the face: Is there risk with breed ownership?
Injuries from pit bulls and mixed breed dogs were both more frequent and more severe. Mixed breed and the pit bull were found to have the highest relative risk of biting, as well as the highest average damage per bite.

Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 2019

Anesthetic Management of a Cardiac Transplant Patient After Extensive Facial Trauma Caused by a Pit Bull Attack
Case study of 72-year-old male cardiac transplant patient presented after sustaining facial and extremity trauma caused by a pit bull dog attack.

Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, 2019

Children have an Increased Risk for Periorbital Dog Bite Injuries
The pit bull was the most commonly named breed to be involved in both pediatric (18%) and adult (26.2%) injuries.

Acta Paediatrica, 2019

Dog bites in a U.S. county: age, body part and breed in paediatric dog bites
A review of 14,956 dog bites 2007-2015 showed ‘Pit bulls’ accounted for 27.2% of dog bites and were more common in children 13–18 years.

Plastic Surgery, 2018

Are Dog Bites a Problem of Nature or Nurture?
Pit bull attacks account for higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than attacks from other dog breeds.

Journal of Orthopedic Trauma, 2018

Dogs and Orthopaedic Injuries: Is There a Correlation with Breed?
Of the 95 patients, 50% were the result of a pit bull terrier bite and 22% by a law enforcement dog. A total of 32% were attacked by multiple dogs. Pit bull terrier bites were responsible for a significantly higher number of orthopaedic injuries and resulted in an amputation and/or bony injury in 66% of patients treated.

Southern Medical Journal, 2018

Characteristics of Dog Bites in Arkansas
The results are aligned mostly with the general trends found in previous national and global studies, supporting the notion that family dogs represent a more significant threat than often is realized and that, among the breeds identified, pit bulls are proportionally linked with more severe bite injuries.

Clinical Pediatrics, 2018

Characteristics of 1616 Consecutive Dog Bite Injuries at a Single Institution
Pit bull bites were implicated in half of all surgeries and over 2.5 times as likely to bite in multiple anatomic locations as compared to other breeds.

International Journal of Surgery Case Reports, 2018

Pit Bull attack causing limb threatening vascular trauma — A case series
Attacks by pit bull terriers are more likely to cause severe morbidity than other breeds of dogs.

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2018

Retrospective analysis of necropsy reports from 2001-2012 suggestive of abuse in dogs and cats
Pit bull-type dogs (29/73 or 40%) were overrepresented in several abuse categories, such as gunshot and blunt-force trauma.  This supports legislation for mandatory spay/neuter to reduce suffering.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2017

An algorithmic approach to operative management of complex pediatric dog bites: A 3 Year Review of a Level I Regional Referral Pediatric Trauma Hospital
Of the 56 cases that identified dog breed, pit bulls accounted for 48.2 percent of the dog bites, and 47.8 percent of pit bull bites required intervention in the operating room.

American Journal of Otolaryngology, 2015

Dog bites of the head and neck: An evaluation of common pediatric trauma
One-third of 334 dog bite cases were by pit bulls, and bites from pit bulls more severe than other dogs.

Ophthalmic Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 2015

Ocular Trauma from Dog Bites at a Regional Level I Trauma Center Over 11 Years
The most common breed of dog inflicting ocular injury was the pit bull (25%). Importantly, this study establishes that pit bulls are the most frequent breed associated with ocular injuries from dog bites.

Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 2015

Morbidity of pediatric dog bites
Of 650 dog bite incidents, pit bulls were most frequently responsible for pediatric dog bites, accounting for 39% of incidents where breed was documented. Dog familiarity did not confer safety, and in this series, Pit bulls were most frequently responsible.

American Journal of Otolaryngology, 2015

Dog bites of the head and neck: an evaluation of a common pediatric trauma and associated treatment
In a study of 334 dog bites by 8 different breeds, one-third were caused by pit bull terriers, and resulted in the highest rate of consultation (94%), and had 5 times the relative rate of surgical intervention. Unlike all other breeds, pit bull terriers were relatively more likely to attack an unknown individual (+ 31%), and without provocation (+ 48%).

Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery, 2012

Periorbital trauma from pit bull terrier attacks
In the ophthalmic setting, pit bull terrier attacks most frequently involve  children and result in eyelid lacerations.

Injury Prevention, 2012

Effectiveness of breed-specific legislation in decreasing the incidence of dog-bite  injury hospitalizations in people in the Canadian province of Manitoba
A 20% decrease in the number of hospitalizations caused by dog bites for the 16 regions within the province that had enacted breed-specific legislation.

Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2012

Animal Related Fatalities – Part I: Characteristic Autopsy Findings and Variable Causes of Death Associated with Blunt and Sharp Trauma
In a study of carnivore bites from dogs with a “hole and tear” pattern of wounding, pit bulls were involved in 42-45% of attacks.

Anals of Surgery, 2011

Mortality, Mauling, and Maiming by Vicious Dogs
In a 15 year review, attacks by pit bulls associated with higher injuries, higher risk of hospitalization, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs.,_Mauling,_and_Maiming_by_Vicious_Dogs.23.aspx

American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 2009

Dog Bite-Related Fatalities: A 15-Year Review of Kentucky Medical Examiner Cases
Pit bulls implicated in 45% of fatal attacks in a 15-year review.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2009

Pediatric Dog Bite Injuries: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
In a 5-year review of 239 patients, 137 or 51% were attacked by pit bulls.

American Association of Plastic Surgeons, 2008

A ten-year, two-institution review of pediatric dog attacks: Advocating for a nationwide prohibition of dangerous dogs
From a review of 109 patients, 57% of dogs were deemed to be of a dangerous breed (Pit Bull or Rottweiler).

The American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 2007

Pitbull Mauling Deaths in Detroit
There is a tendency for pit bulls to attack the neck region and destroy the blood vessels of the neck and cause extensive avulsions of the scalp and ears.

Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 2000

Breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks in the United States between 1979 and 1998
Fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem to pit bull-type dogs  and Rottweilers.

Pediatrics (American Academy of Pediatrics), 1996

Fatal Dog Attacks, 1989-1994
Pit bulls were involved in 24 deaths out of 109 dog bite-related fatalities.

Pediatrics (American Academy of Pediatrics), 1991

Dog Bites in Urban Children
In a study of 168 children, significantly more pit bull injuries (94%) were the consequence of unprovoked attacks.

Journal of the American Medical Association, 1989

Dog Bite-Related Fatalities from 1979 through 1988
Pit bull breeds were involved in 41.6% of 101 deaths where dog breed was reported, almost three times more than German shepherds, the next most commonly reported breed. The proportion of deaths attributable to pit bulls increased from 20% in 1979 and 1980 to 62% in 1987 and 1988.