What Really Causes a Dog to Bite

Posted By: Tony Baratta | January 23rd, 2020

I love my dog and I am sure that you do too.  There are over 300 million people in the United States and over 76 million dogs that live in 38% of U.S. households.  One of the consequences of owning a dog is the responsibility to care for and be in control of that dog.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association approximately 4.5 million dog bites occur each year.  In 2018, nearly 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by a dog.  Dog bites occur every 75 seconds in the United States.

According to the data, Pit Bull Terriers are relatively more likely to attack an unknown individual and without provocation than any other dog.  From 2005 to 2017, Pit Bull attacks have caused 284 deaths to humans.  The next most dangerous dog causing deaths is a rottweiler, causing 45 deaths in that period of time.

Statistics may suggest that Pit Bulls are dangerous.  However, that is not the message I am intending to send by writing this blog.

I have represented many people who have been seriously injured by dog bites and many of those dog bites have been from by Pit Bulls.  However, common in every one of those cases is that those bites were caused by the negligence of the dog owner, and not caused by the breed of the dog.  Clearly, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers and German Shepherds given their size, strength and physical agility are capable of causing more harm when they bite.  So, in the hands of a careless owner, those dogs are in fact dangerous.  But, in the hands of a careful and conscientious owner, those dogs are as safe as any other dog.

The common elements of dog owner negligence I have seen in the cases in I have handled are the following:

  • The dog is not neutered
  • There is often domestic violence or domestic upheaval in the home
  • The owner does not provide the dog with socialization with other humans and dogs
  • There is improper training or violent training with the use of shock collars or other means which scare or hurt the dog
  • The dog is permitted to escape the home, uncontrolled, regularly
  • Kids are left alone with dogs for long periods of time (children can unintentionally irritate a dog and provoke an uncharacteristic reaction).

All dogs have the cognition of a three-year old child. A dog is primarily concerned first with safety, then with food and water and only after those things are satisfied, interaction with humans.  A dog bites because the dog is afraid.  If the dog is taught fear, that is the reaction it will have with other dogs and humans.

A responsible, safe owner regularly walks and/or exercises their dog, socializes their dog and creates a safe environment in the family home.

About the Author

Anthony J. Baratta (Tony) is a trial attorney. He has tried more than 50 cases to Juries in State and Federal Courts and has litigated thousands of personal injury and medical malpractice cases in his 30-year career. Tony is the founding partner of Baratta, Russell, & Baratta and an active board member of the Pennsylvania Brain Injury Association (BPIA). Tony is also on the board for the Philadelphia VIP and performs pro bono work for the Laurel House, a non-profit for victims of domestic abuse. In addition, Tony is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for trial attorneys, voted one of Philadelphia’s Super Lawyers for the past 14 years, and a 2018 recipient of the First Judicial District Pro Bono Award for the Civil Trial Division.

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