[Skip to Navigation]
Sign In
January 22, 1997

Dog Bites Recognized as Public Health Problem

JAMA. 1997;277(4):278-280. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540280016009

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


IT'S TIME to take some teeth out of a largely unrecognized yet preventable public health problem.

Every year in the United States, almost 2% of the population is bitten by a dog. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Ga, estimates that of those 4.5 million bites, almost 800 000 are serious enough to require medical attention. In extreme cases, about 18 people die from dog bites every year (Pediatrics. 1996;97:891-895 and Injury Prev. 1996;2:52-54).

In many instances, the bite is the result of a pet owner not fully understanding the responsibility involved in owning a dog. Some dog owners disregard leash laws; others may not think twice before leaving infants or young children alone with a dog. Sometimes, parents allow their children to freely approach an unfamiliar dog on the street.

"We have to educate dog owners on their responsibilities," says Westwood, Kan, consultant Wayne Hunthausen,

Add or change institution