Dog-bite related fatalities: a 15 year review of Kentucky medical examiner cases

To best understand this article in the context of the Dog Bite-Related Fatality (DBRF) literature, please see National Canine Research Council’s complete analysis here.
Article Citation: 
Shields, L. E., Bernstein, M. L., Hunsaker, J. 3., & Stewart, D. M. (2009). Dog bite-related fatalities: a 15-year review of Kentucky medical examiner cases. The American Journal Of Forensic Medicine And Pathology30(3), 223-230. doi:10.1097/PAF.0b013e3181a5e558

National Canine Research Council Summary and Analysis:

Shields, Bernstein, Hunsaker, and Stewart (2009) conducted a small retrospective study of 11 DBRFs in Kentucky between 1991 and 2005, all of the DBRFs that could be documented in the state during that decade. The researchers interviewed multiple sources close to the cases including the coroner, animal control employees, district court representatives, and the Humane Society. They reviewed autopsies that were available for eight of the eleven victims. Odontological reports were used in four of the cases, where there was a question about which dog was involved. Detailed case studies for all eleven fatalities are provided.

Several of the case studies found neglect and cruelty; dogs were chained to fences and intermittently deprived of food and water to make them meaner. There were reports of teasing with sticks, raging, and encouraging aggressive behavior. The authors reported that these preventable, owner-related issues likely would not have surfaced had they relied on media reports for their data collection. This study concluded with a discussion of the authors’ ideas of the broader context of the human-canine bond, based on this very small number of cases. For dog bite prevention, they recommend community education on responsible dog ownership, including socialization and supervision.

Although the authors acknowledge the shortcomings of breed-specific commentary, they included the unvalidated reports of breeds involved in the eleven fatalities. Despite the detailed case studies, it is unclear how the breeds were determined, so their accuracy is unknown.

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