Over 300 people have been killed by domestic dogs in the U.S. between 1979 and the late 1990s (Humane Society of the U.S., reported in Tracking and the Art of Seeing, Paul Rezendes, second edition, 1999, p. 194). This means that your family dog or your neighbor's dog is ten times more likely to kill you than a mountain lion and hundreds of time more likely than a coyote attacks.
This page lists some recent dog attacks on people to show in the same manner as for mountain lions and coyotes how common dog attacks are.
26 January. Diane Whipple, 33, the lacrosse coach at St. Mary's College, was killed when her throat was punctured by a large dog as she was putting her keys in the front door of her upscale Pacific Heights San Francisco apartment at 4 p.m.
Marjorie Knoller was putting her two dogs in her apartment when Diane emerged from the elevator. Bane, a 120 pound male dog, headed down to Diane, who was 5'3" and 110 pounds, and attacked her neck while Hera, a 113 pound female, tore at her clothes. The attack continued for 5 minutes, even as Marjorie tried to pull the dogs off Diane. Bane dragged Whipple 20 feet down the hallway. The attack scene was so horrifying that the officers on the scene needed psychological counseling. Diane died at 8:55 p.m. from loss of blood from severe neck injuries, despite two hours of surgery.
Bane was killed by animal control officers and Hera was impounded. The dogs were crossbreeds between English mastiffs and Canary Island fighting dogs. The Canary Island fighting dogs were so dangerous that they were outlawed by Spain in the 1930s. Mixing such a ruthless fighter with the size of an English mastiff would be "foolhardy", according to Merry Johnson, an expert on mastiffs.
Robert Noel, Marjorie's husband, said the animals were generally gentle and showed no previous signs of aggression, with Bane even gently carrying a kitten in his month at times. However, Diane had been bitten by Bane once before, and hated that dog, along with many of her neighbors. They called Bane "Killer Dog" or "Dog of Death", and at least one neighbor worked out a schedule with Robert so that their dogs would never meet. That neighbor carried pepper spray and began wearing tennis shoes in fear of an attack by Bane.
"You never know what a dog is going to do," said Jim Avery, out for a walk in the neighborhood with his golden retriever Blackie. "I think the owners are liable for involuntary manslaughter. If I were (Whipple's) family I would sue the guy until the cows come home."
If the owners knew that the dogs had a propensity to fight or attack, they could be charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to Fred Gardner, spokesman for District Attorney Terence Hallinan.
Source: LAT 1/30/01, A1, A14; 1/29/01, A15; 1/28/01, A25; SDUT 1/28/01, A3, A4; 1/27/01, A3.
Copyright © 2001 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 23 October 2001.