Rottweilers have passed pit bulls as America’s deadliest dog breed, according to a study released today.
The large dogs were involved in 33 fatal attacks on humans between 1991 and 1998, the American Veterinary Medical Association said.
Pit bulls, which had been responsible for more deaths than any other breed, were involved in 21 fatal attacks over the same period.
Protectors Turned Maulers Rottweilers, first bred in Germany, surged in popularity during the 1990s as more people sought them for protection, said Jeffrey J. Sacks, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“People are more in fear of crime and violence, and this has led to a selection of bigger dogs,” he said. “If you start selecting bigger dogs, you’ll get bigger bites.”
The study’s authors, using data from the Humane Society of the United States and media accounts of dog maulings, reported 27 people — 19 of them children — died from dog attacks in 1997 and 1998.
The numbers highlight widespread mistreatment of dogs and a growing public ignorance of how to behave around them, researchers said. They blamed adults for not teaching children to stay away from unfamiliar dogs.
“It’s not a Rottweiler problem or a pit bull problem,” said Randall Lockwood, the Humane Society’s vice president for research and educational outreach. “It’s a people problem.”
Busy Families, Lack of Training The annual number of reported fatal attacks has not varied widely in the past 20 years, the study said. But overall attacks are on the rise — likely because families are busier, leaving them less time to train their dogs and watch their children.
“A dog has to have its behavior monitored and consequences put in place,” Sacks said. “People don’t seem to have a lot of time in their lives for that.”
Pit bulls led all breeds for fatal attacks between 1979 and 1998, with at least one pit bull involved in 66 mauling deaths, the study said. Rottweilers were blamed for 37 — most of those in the 1990s — followed by German shepherds with 17 and huskies with 15.
Researchers cautioned the breakdown does not necessarily indicate which dogs provide the highest risk of fatal attacks because incomplete registration of dogs and mixed breeds make it hard to determine how many of each type of dog Americans own.