According to the most recent statistics, California is tied for third in the nation for dog bite deaths. While there were only three in 2020 (tied with Louisiana and Alabama), the state actually experienced nine dog bite deaths in 2019. So, even though it appears that the number of dog bite deaths is decreasing in the state, overall bites are still a problem. In fact, in 2021, there were 388 dog bite claims in the Golden State, nearly 100 more than the next state on the list (Illinois with 290). And not all cities are the same. Some California cities have a higher risk of dog bites than others.
Los Angeles and San Diego
With the warm and dry weather in the southern part of California, there’s no surprise that Los Angeles and San Diego report the most dog bites every year. There are more people with more dogs in these cities, simply because the nice weather allows them to spend time outside with their pets. Unfortunately, this also means that more dogs come into contact with more strangers, which leads to more confrontations and bites.
In Los Angeles alone, over a three year period, there were 23,103 dog bites reported in the city, most of which occurred between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Why this time frame appears to offer an increased risk for dog bites is anyone’s guess, but it may be that more people are off work and out and about with their dogs. San Diego had far fewer dog bite incidents reported in the past three years, but the 7,600 documented bites is still a large number.
As in the rest of California, pit bulls were responsible for 851 bites in San Diego, the most of any breed. German Shepherds came in second with 349 cases, which is somewhat surprising since mixed breeds represent the second-most fatal bites in the state, with German Shepherds coming in tied for third. Overwhelmingly, though, pit bulls tend to bite people more often than other dogs in California.
This northern California city does not see as many dog bites as those in the south, but with an estimated 250,000 dogs in the city, the average of 300 dog bites each year is impressively low. Interestingly, San Francisco has a pit bull ban in place that requires any owner that has an unneutered or unspayed pit bull to obtain a permit from Animal Care & Control. It is possible that this restriction on pit bulls has led to a relatively low number of dog bites compared to other California cities.
There are some exceptions to this law, including the pit bull being a show dog or they can’t undergo the surgical procedure because it could seriously harm or kill them. But in most cases, pit bulls can’t be owned in San Francisco unless they are spayed or neutered, mostly because this procedure does make them less aggressive.
Whether you’re a dog owner or not in California, the new statistics on dog bites should be worrisome. If you own a dog, you want to prevent it from biting anyone and if you don’t own one, you want to keep yourself safe. Understanding where and when these attacks take place is one step toward those goals.
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