Dog Attacks: A Changing Culture


If you look through newspapers from, say, forty years ago, you'll find a few cases of "dog bite." They turn up mostly in the police reports. If you look through news reports on the web today, you'll find a lot more cases, and they won't be called "dog bites" but "dog attacks." In fact, the perpetrator may not be called a "dog" in the headline but a "pit bull" or some other specific breed.

I receive several news items like this literally every day. These abundant news reports are the reason, I assume, that people are always asking me why there are so many more animal attacks these days. Every animal is different, but the truth in most cases is that attacks probably haven't become more common. Only the reporting of them has. It used to be that a "dog bite" was considered trivial, whereas now a "dog attack" sounds serious. Then as now, a few deaths were mixed in with the minor injuries. But the spin has changed.

There are a lot of reasons for that. One of them is suggested by the frequent bulletins I get advertising the services of attorneys. By re-branding dog bites as a serious problem, some lawyers have created a new revenue stream. We Americans used to deal with a problem dog by shooting or poisoning it. Nowadays we sue its owner.

(Cartoon courtesy of James Twiggs.)

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