The News Media’s Biased Source for Dog Bite Statistics

It’s bad enough that news stories about pit bulls are usually negative. Even worse is that those stories frequently cite statistics from DogsBite.org. The statistics on this website — created by someone who is not a dog expert, supports breed-specific legislation (BSL) and wants all pit bulls killed – are, as you can imagine, pretty skewed.

The first sentence of the “About Us” page on DogsBite.org reveals the site’s mindset: “DogsBite.org is a public education website about dangerous dog breeds, chiefly pit bulls.” Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see the No. 1 policy it supports is “Ban pit bulls.”

DogsBite.org was created in 2007 by Colleen Lynn, a web designer, after she was bitten by a pit bull she startled while jogging. Based on this one unfortunate incident, she decided the entire breed should be destroyed.

The goal of her website was revenge, “not public education or anything that she claims it to be about now — it was about enacting breed specific legislation…even though she has no credentials to propose legislation like that with any basis of expertise,” wrote Brent Toellner on the KC Dog Blog in 2010. Unlike Lynn, Toellner has plenty of experience with pit bulls and other dogs. He’s the president and co-founder of the Kansas City Pet Project, the third largest, open-admission no-kill animal shelter in the United States.

The Problem With DogsBite.org’s Statistics

One fact all those negative news stories usually fail to mention is that, as opposed to DogsBite.org, most major U.S. animal welfare organizations are against BSL because it has proven to be unfair and ineffective in increasing public safety. The RSPCA recently published a report in which it called the Dangerous Dogs Act, which bans pit bulls in the U.K., “flawed,” and urged the government to remove the act’s breed-specific legislation.

Accurately calculating a bite rate for a certain breed is difficult because there is no consistent data on breed populations and bites, according to a 2000 study by animal experts. The study’s purpose was to summarize the breeds of dogs involved in fatal human attacks during a 20-year period and to assess policy implications.

“Although fatal attacks on humans appear to be a breed-specific problem (pit bull-type dogs and Rottweilers), other breeds may bite and cause fatalities at higher rates,” the study concluded. “Fatal attacks represent a small proportion of dog bite injuries to humans and, therefore, should not be the primary factor driving public policy concerning dangerous dogs.”

So, considering those difficulties cited by animal experts, how does DogsBite.org still manage to provide the media with dog bite statistics? If reporters would just do a little digging, they’d discover that the data comes from Animals 24-7.org, a website run by Merritt Clifton. He happens to be another anti-pit bull, pro-BSL, non-dog-expert who “fudges numbers to promote his own personal agendas,” according to Toellner.

More Reliable Sources Are Available

So why does the news media continue to use such a biased source? Perhaps it’s because when reporters working on tight deadlines Google “pit bull bite statistics,” DogsBite.org pops up first in the search results. Or maybe they just can’t find any other “dog expert” to interview who is in favor of breed-specific legislation.

There are, however, sources without any not-so-hidden agendas available that can provide the media with accurate information about dog bites—and, importantly, tips for how to avoid them. For instance, Karen Delise, founder of the National Canine Research Council, has studied dog attacks for over two decades.

“Time and time again I have seen the media report an incident … as ‘breed x’ attacks child, with no mention of the circumstances of the bite, but, rather, with links to other attacks by ‘breed x’ and a discussion on the history and genetics of ‘breed x’ – none of which provided a single ounce of useful information on how this very preventable bite could have been avoided,” Delise told StubbyDog.org.

It’s time for the news media to stop using DogsBite.org as a credible source. Please sign and share this petition asking the U.S. Press Association to boycott this website.

Photo credit: Paul Sableman

49 comments

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a year ago

The medical records departments??????

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Kerry V
Chris Edwards1 years ago

This article is wrought with issues. Public policy regarding safety should not be determined by animal experts or organizations. I am often shocked that they believe themselves equipped to dictate public safety policy for humans. Those who are involved in the reparation of the damage caused by the attacks should set policy. Surgeons compare pit type dog attacks to shark attacks. Pediatricians strongly recommend that parents not choose a pit type dog. Dog experts are biased on behalf of dogs and should in no way write public safety policy

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

Using bias to achieve one's agenda. Definitely not good for anyone especially the pits.

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Marie W.
Marie W2 years ago

Thanks

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Telica R.
Telica R2 years ago

Thank you for sharing :)

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Ron Loynes
Ron Loynes2 years ago

We breed and train pit bulls to fight and attack. Almost anyone who has a dog (some cats, too) tries to teach their pet to defend the owner or it's family. But if you sic a pug or beagle on someone or a pit bull or Rottweiler the consequence are vastly different. Pretty much we are to blame for this. I see many of the pit bull mixes or types in animal shelters because irresponsible people get one then can not or don't take care of them, I feel sorry for the dog but I would never let a pit bull (especially and adopted one) play with the kids or granny down the street. You can rationalize all you want but whether it is human or dog fault I don't want my family to survive the ignorance of others.

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Lorri R.
Lorri R2 years ago

Check this out!!! Sweet Pit Bulls walking peacefully with their owners, ATTACKED BY A CAT!!!! http://kfor.com/2016/08/17/cat-attacks-7-pit-bulls-sending-one-to-vet-and-owner-to-er/

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Tom M.
Tom M2 years ago

The person that runs the dogsbite.org website is actually a convicted pedophile. They use the site to encourage parents to submit photos of their children which in turn they use for illegal purposes, selling them to child porn sites etc.

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Terri S.
Terri S2 years ago

So if an old white woman punched Ms Lynn in the mouth, she would start a web page to destroy all old white women, or if a little kitten scratched her, we should destroy all little kittens, or if a black man tripped her we should destroy them too. Anyway, you get my point??

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