Every year during the second week of April, the American Veterinary Medical Association produces National Dog Bite Prevention Week, a seemingly uncontroversial effort to educate the public, and to help veterinarians educate clients about how to prevent dog bites. Key to the campaign is a message pet owners can expect to hear repeatedly in the coming week, which is that “most dog bites are preventable.” There is emphasis on learning how to read a dog’s body language, for example, as well as on responsibilities of dog owners to socialize and train dogs. Here is this year’s Infographic from the AVMA.
DogsBite.org founder and publisher Colleen Lynn disagrees with the premise that ‘most bites are preventable.’ She maintains that in 2007, she did nothing to invite being attacked, and the fact that she’s alive today, she says, is sheer luck, not because she took a preventive measure.
Lynn, of Austin, Texas, says that she was jogging on a Seattle sidewalk when she was attacked by a two-year-old unaltered pit bull (whose name, it turned out, was “Bull”) that broke away from his handler and lunged at her without warning.
“I was lucky,” Lynn told The Canine Review in an interview during Dog Bite Prevention Week last year. recalling the incident. Within days of being discharged from the hospital, Lynn says she decided to figure out a way to use her professional background in web design to tell the side of the story she felt was not being told. DogsBite.org, Lynn’s website — which includes a gruesome picture of the fractured arm she says she suffered from the pit bull attack — describes itself as “a national dog bite victims’ group dedicated to reducing serious dog attacks.”
Lynn’s positions, such as mandatory sterilization ordinances for pit bulls, make her controversial. Yet her website is constantly sourced by mainstream news media outlets. Lynn has emerged as a force to be reckoned with.
“There’s been this anti-breeder phenomenon for many years now,” she says. “You know, ‘adopt don’t shop.’ People write in to us say they’re afraid to go to a shelter and then they tell me, ‘I’ve been researching breeders.’ And, I’m like, that sounds like a great plan.” Lynn added: “As far as wanting to adopt, you know, a Springer Spaniel, you’re probably not going to have good luck at a shelter. You’re going to have to do your research and find a good breeder.”
‘Any dog can bite’
Lynn advocates for legislation that targets specific breeds of dogs commonly referred to as “breed specific legislation.” However, the American Kennel Club, the world’s largest registry of purebred dogs, as well as every animal welfare group, takes the opposite position: that the dog, not the breed, determines whether the dog will bite (along with the dog’s owners and environment). Thus, their push for the dog bite prevention campaign.
Meantime, the number of dog bite claims filed under homeowners’ insurance policies nationwide only increased slightly over the past year compared to 2020. In 2021, the number of dog bite claims increased to 17, 989 from 17, 597 in 2020 (2.2 percent increase) according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I). Yet the Institute also estimates that there were 4.5 million dog bites in the U.S. in 2020.