Texas Leads the Nation in Dog Bite Fatalities
July 25th, 2017
Texans love dogs. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), 44% of Texas households include a dog, placing the state in the top 10 nationally for dog ownership, just a few percentage points behind top-ranked Arkansas. But, there’s a downside to the dog-friendly nature of the Lone Star State. Texas also led the nation in dog-bite fatalities from 2005-2013, and tied for the second most dog-related fatalities in 2016.
The vast majority of dog bites aren’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean dogs don’t present a serious risk, especially to children. Kids are the most likely to be bitten by dogs and, because of their smaller size and the likelihood that they will panic or not know how to protect themselves, are often more seriously injured when they are bitten. About 42% of those killed by dogs are under the age of 10.
Dog Bite Statistics
Data from one large national insurance company puts Texas at number five in the nation for dog bite injury claims in 2016, and the Houston area may be especially risky. The United States Postal Service (USPS) put Houston in the number two slot for dog attacks on postal workers, second only to Los Angeles.
Nationally, the one insurance company mentioned above paid out more than $120 million in dog-related injury claims in 2016, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Americans suffer about 4.5 million dog bites each year. That’s more than one dog bite per 100 Americans each year. About 900,000 of those dog bites result in infection.
The Most Dangerous Dogs in Texas
Pit Bulls are responsible for most dog bite deaths, however, German Shepherds tend to lead in the sheer number of attacks. Some other dogs that are often cited as high-risk include:
• Doberman Pinschers
• American Bulldogs
However, it is important to recognize that any dog can be dangerous under the right circumstances. Labradors and lab mixes killed three people in 2016, and even small dogs can cause serious injuries.
Avoiding Dog Bite Injuries
Your actions when encountering a dog can reduce the chances that you’ll provoke a dog, and even avert danger. Familiarize yourself and your children with these safety tips for encounters with dogs:
• Don’t assume that a dog is safe simply because it is familiar—most dog bite victims are bitten by dogs they know
• Be aware of circumstances in which a dog is likely to be defensive, such as when it is eating, sleeping, or tending puppies
• Avoid approaching unfamiliar dogs, and allow a dog to approach you and sniff your hand before reaching to pet it
• Don’t run from a dog, scream, or otherwise raise the level of energy and stress in the encounter
• Avoid making direct eye contact with the dog, and turn your body slightly to the side—facing a dog head-on and looking it in the eye can be interpreted as signs of aggression
Liability for Dog Bites in Texas
Texas law holds a dog’s owner responsible for injuries caused by the dog if the dog has bitten in the past or the owner has reason to know that it may be vicious or aggressive. However, that doesn’t mean that an owner or handler necessarily gets a free pass on the first bite. A dog’s owner or person charged with care of the animal may be liable for injuries resulting from negligent handling of the animal.
Unfortunately, the fact that you may be legally entitled to damages doesn’t necessarily mean that an insurance company will approve your claim, or that the company will offer fair compensation. If you or a family member has been seriously injured by someone else’s dog, it is in your best interests to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer before making any decisions.
You can take the first step right now by calling (713) 932-0777 or filling out the contact form at the bottom of this page to learn more about your rights and options.
Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.