Last year, we were told that there were 122 dog bites reported in the city. If we assume that the population of Worcester is about 180,000, that means that you have a .06% chance of getting bitten by a dog (or, at least, getting a bad enough bite that you’d report it).
According to the CDC, 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs every year in the US, and 800,000 seek medical attention. That means that on the US as a whole, you have a 1.5% chance of being bitten and a .26% chance of needing medical attention from a dog bite.
Which means that Worcester seems safer, dog-bite-wise, than the country as a whole.
We were also told that 56 of those 122 bites were from pit bulls. That means you’ve got a .03% chance of being bitten by a pit bull if you’re a Worcester resident.
As a result of these shocking statistics, the City Council decided to make sure that pit bulls are muzzled when off their property, that pit bull owners pay an additional licensing fee, and other measures that do absolutely nothing to stop biting incidents.
In anticipation of tomorrow’s implementation of the pit bull ordinance, WorcesterWired had a long article about a woman who was attacked by a pit bull. The Telegram [behind the paywall] also reports that a pit bull was stabbed to death after attacking another dog.
What neither of these articles tells us is if the dogs were unneutered males.
The CDC says that “there is currently no accurate way to identify the number of dogs of a particular breed, and consequently no measure to determine which breeds are more likely to bite or kill.” The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) can tell you that “intact males are … involved in 70 to 76% of reported dog bite incidents.” (I recommend reading the AVMA’s A community approach to dog bite prevention for a more comprehensive discussion of this topic.)
We don’t know how many dog bites in Worcester were caused by dogs off their leashes (because this is, of course, under the original ordinance). We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by dogs on their owner’s property (which wouldn’t be affected by either ordinance). We don’t know how many dog bites were caused by unneutered/intact male dogs.
We don’t know any of these statistics because the City Council didn’t want to consider them when drafting this ordinance. We continue to get news stories with “pit bull” in the title, instead of “intact male” or “unleashed dog” or “unlicensed dog” or any of a number of factors that are just as relevant to the issue of dog bites.
We need statistics to be kept that don’t just include the breed of the dog, but the location of the attack, whether the dog is licensed or unlicensed, fixed or not, healthy or unhealthy. We need a news media more fully committed to giving the public an accurate depiction of the factors that lead to a dog bite.
We need a massive public education campaign about spaying and neutering dogs. Frankly, I think we need to start identifying unneutered dogs in the same way we’re currently identifying pit bulls and offering real incentives (not $3 off a dog license) to those who spay and neuter their pets. We need a thoughtful, rational approach that is lasting, not a quick fix that doesn’t have long-term goals (like increasing spay/neuter rates).
I know that what we need and what we’ll get are two very different things. But a girl can dream!