Volume 36, Issue 4 (July 1991)
Fatal and Near-Fatal Animal Bite Injuries
Fatal and near-fatal maulings of humans by pit bulls have recently become a topic of major public concern, resulting in the passage of laws in some jurisdictions that make the owner of a pit bull criminally liable for manslaughter if his or her pet causes a human death. The authors recently investigated two cases in which children were fatally injured by pet dogs. In the first case, a 17-day-old girl suffered fatal abdominal injuries when attacked by a pregnant Siberian husky. A 2-year-old girl expired from neck wounds inflicted by a pit bull or a rottweiler or both. Because no expert would testify as to which dog caused the fatal injury, the owner of the animals was not charged under a statute which specified criminality only if a pit bull caused the fatal injury. We also examined a 12-year-old boy who attempted to pet a circus tiger; the animal grabbed his arm with its claws and bit off the arm at the shoulder. The arm could not be reattached, but the child survived. These cases and the differentiation of animal bites from other injuries will be presented.