How the COVID-19 Pandemic Impacted Dog Bite Fatality Rates

The report examines how the pandemic affected the rate of U.S. dog bite fatalities in 2020 when the pandemic began.

COVID-19 has resulted in many devastating consequences and significant changes to daily life. We are only just beginning to understand the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the various challenges it has created in society at large.

DogsBite.org, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks, recently released its Macro-Level Forces Report. The report examines how the pandemic affected the rate of U.S. dog bite fatalities in 2020 when the pandemic began.

DogsBite.org noted disruptions to the reporting and recording of dog-related incidents during the tumultuous heights of the pandemic. The organization found a difference between the number of dog bite fatalities it recorded in 2020 and data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although dog bite fatalities surged that year, DogsBite.org’s capture rate declined.

According to the CDC, there were 62 deadly dog attacks in 2020, the most the public health agency has ever documented. The number marked a 29 percent surge from 2019 and a 77 percent increase from 2018. In comparison, DogsBite.org recorded 47 fatalities in 2020.

During a 15-year period ending in 2019, the largest deficit of unreported dog bite fatalities that DogsBite.org had recorded was four. In 2020, the nonprofit saw its largest deficit of 15 unreported cases.

The West and Midwest regions had the highest number of unreported dog bite fatalities. The CDC reported 18 dog bite deaths in the Midwest, which includes Illinois. Dogsbite.org recorded 12 deaths in comparison.

Factors Behind the Surge in Dog Bite Fatalities

DogsBite.org examined the macro-level forces that could be responsible for the surge in dog bite fatalities and data discrepancies in 2020. Macro-level forces refer to social and economic factors that are outside our control.

Major macro-level forces that the nonprofit cited included government-mandated stay-at-home orders and school closures. During the COVID-19 pandemic, around a third of employees began working from home. Many others lost their jobs.

With the rise in individuals working remotely and children spending more time indoors, heightened exposure to dogs may have contributed to the increase in dog bite fatalities. Dogs are known to mirror the stress and anxiety of their owners. Additionally, the pandemic afforded little opportunity to venture outside the home to parks or engage in other recreational activities.

Families with children and pets had to deal with unique challenges and pressures due to the pandemic. With adults having to handle more responsibilities at home, they may not have been able to watch their children and dogs as closely. Moreover, reduced media focus on non-pandemic news and a subsequent decline in police reports obscured the true scale of these incidents, ultimately leading to underreporting of dog bites.

Fatal Dog Bite Characteristics

The CDC reported that 66 percent of fatal dog bite victims in 2020 were aged 45 and older. According to DogsBite.org, some cities saw the number of dog bites double in 2020, while pediatric hospitals reported three times the number of emergency room visits linked to dog bites.

Doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado published an article stating that they had seen a “surge” of dogs biting children during the pandemic, a trend believed to be occurring beyond Colorado as well. Children’s Colorado is one of the country’s largest pediatric healthcare systems.

Delving deeper, the DogsBite.org report highlighted the characteristics of unreported fatal dog attacks between 2005 and 2020. Notably, adults aged 40 and above, particularly those in urban areas within states with restrictions on breed-specific legislation, were found to be the most vulnerable. The nonprofit found that 78 percent of dog bite victims were over the age of 40.

Around 83 percent of unreported fatal dog bite incidents from this period involved pit bull attacks. In 78 percent of cases, victims were attacked by family dogs.

Contact a Chicago Dog Bite Lawyer

The 2020 Macro-Level Forces Report by DogsBite.org analyzes the complex factors involved in the reporting and understanding of dog bite fatalities during the onset of the pandemic. Analysis of subsequent data from the CDC can shed further light on dog bite incidents and help prevention efforts.

While not all dog bites are fatal, they can result in serious injuries that require costly medical care. Children are especially vulnerable to severe harm in dog attacks.

If you have been injured due to a dog bite, reach out to the experienced Chicago dog bite lawyers at Briskman Briskman & Greenberg. Contact us for a free initial consultation. We can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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