Health Department Releases Data on Dog Bite Hospitalizations in New York City

12 percent increase in emergency department visits related to dog bites from 2007 to 2014; in 2014, hospital charges for dog bite injuries totaled more than $17 million

Health Department conducts ongoing educational outreach around dog bites to children in classrooms, after-school programs and at community centers

July 14, 2017 — The Health Department today released a report on dog bite injuries in New York City. This report identifies trends in dog bites in 2014, with a focus on differences among neighborhoods, age groups and activities at the time of the reported bites. In 2014, there were 6,373 emergency department visits related to dog bites, 293 hospitalizations and 3,188 reported dog bites. Hospital charges for dog bite injuries totaled more than $17 million. Rates of both reported dog bites and emergency department visits were higher among children 17 years of age and younger than among adults (49.5 versus 32.0 per 100,000 and 101.8 versus 67.9 per 100,000, respectively). Nationally, dog bites are a leading cause of nonfatal injuries to children. The rate of reported dog bites was highest among children ages 5 to 12 (61.5 per 100,000). Dog bites to children 17 and under occurred most often in the summer months (34 percent), from June to August. The report also showed trends in dog bites between 2007 and 2014. There was a 12 percent increase in emergency department visits related to dog bites from 2007 to 2014 and a 10 percent decrease in bites reported to the Health Department. Dog bite injuries can cause disfiguration, infection, psychological effects like anxiety, and, in some cases, require rabies post-exposure prophylaxis. The report can be found here (PDF).

“Dog bites can be dangerous, so it’s important that all New Yorkers, particularly children, learn how to interact with dogs to minimize the likelihood of a dog bite,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “Our educational resources have helpful tips on how to prevent dog bites, and I encourage parents of young children and dog owners to use them. I also want to remind every New Yorker to make sure your dog is vaccinated for rabies, and check with your vet to make sure the vaccination is current.”

The Health Department responds to all animal bite reports. The response may include outreach to victims; providing recommendations for rabies testing or rabies post-exposure prophylaxis; coordinating rabies testing; following up with owners about their pets; bite investigations; distributing dog-bite prevention resources to owners; and requiring an owner to meet specific conditions to help prevent future bites.

Data Highlights:

  • The rate of dog bite-related emergency department visits was 1.5 times higher in neighborhoods with very high poverty than those with low poverty (94.1 versus 61.5 per 100,000).
  • Staten Island had the highest rates of emergency department visits (114.7 per 100,000) and of reported dog bites (62.3 per 100,000).
  • Of the 2,009 dog bites reported in 2014 with reported injury descriptions, 113 (6 percent) were reported as severe, which was defined as involving more than five stitches or staples, bone fracture, joint dislocation, hospitalization or surgery.
  • Twenty-eight percent of reported dog bites to children 17 and under involved a dog owned in the child’s household, and 29 percent of reported bites to children occurred in the child’s home.
  • Most dog bites are from an owned dog, with only 3 percent of reported bites from a dog that appeared stray and had no known owner.
  • The victim’s activity at the time of the report varied by age. More than one-third of reported bites among youth ages 13 to 17 and adults occurred while the victim was passing by, entering or leaving a dog’s area. Of reported bites to children 12 years of age and younger, almost one-third (32 percent) occurred while the child was playing with or near a dog.

"New Yorkers love their pets and it’s our responsibility to them to follow the regulations that keep everyone safe," said Council Member Corey Johnson, Chair of the Committee on Health. "The information in this report reiterates the need to take common sense safety measures, especially when dogs interact with children. Thanks to Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett and the Health Department for keeping New Yorkers informed on issues that affect our daily lives."

The Health Department conducts ongoing educational outreach around dog bites to children in classrooms, after-school programs and at community centers. The 20- to 30-minute interactive presentations teach children the steps to take to avoid being bitten, such as first asking the dog owner for permission before approaching their dog, letting the dog sniff the back of the hand and acting and speaking calmly. The Health Department has also developed a safety activity book for children, “Be Safe Around Dogs!” (PDF) and a brochure for dog owners, “Be a Responsible Dog Owner” (PDF).

New York City laws require dog owners to keep their dogs vaccinated against rabies, obtain a dog license and keep their dogs on a leash no longer than six feet long in public. The Health Department holds dog licensing events where dog licenses and dog tags are provided on the same day, as well as free rabies vaccine clinics. Dogs can be vaccinated against rabies as early as three months of age, and by law, all dogs must be vaccinated against rabies by four months of age and receive booster vaccinations thereafter. To register or renew their dog licenses, dog owners can go to nyc.gov/doglicense or call 311 to request a paper application. Dog owners can also visit nyc.gov and search “responsible dog ownership” for information on New York City laws for dog owners or search “safety around dogs” for information on preventing dog bites.

New Yorkers can report an animal bite by calling 311 or by searching “report an animal bite” at nyc.gov.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Christopher Miller/Julien Martinez: (347) 396-4177,
PressOffice@health.nyc.gov