Does your dog attack?

Is your poodle a problem?

Maryland lawmakers are debating a bill that would make dog owners liable for their dog's attack on a person. Now, insurance companies and dog owners are scrambling to find out what it could all mean if the Maryland House Ways and Means Committee votes in favor of the proposal.

The proposed bill comes in response to pit bull legislation that classifies all pit bulls as "inherently dangerous." Lawmakers felt the need to change the stance on liability as a previous law stated a dog owner would only be responsible for a dog attack if the pet had shown previous aggression.

As dog owners question whether they will see an increase in insurance cost because of a potential change in liability, they may also ponder the likelihood that their pet would actually attack someone and cause bodily harm.

A glance at the stats

According to information gathered by DogsBite.org, there were 31 fatal dog attacks in America in 2011. Of those attacks, the site reports 71 percent were pit bulls. The site reports pit bulls also make up less than five percent of the total U.S. dog population. The website reports rottweilers to be the second most dangerous breed based on statistics – responsible for 13 percent of dog attack deaths in the country.

The website references a study completed by Animal People that takes an in-depth look at deaths and maimings – 1982 to 2011. It does not, however, track stats on dog bites that go unreported or are less severe.

For example, from 1982 to 2011 there were only two reports of poodles attacking. In one case, an adult was maimed, and in the other, the victim was a child.

According to research by the National Canine Research Council, there have been 12 dog bite related deaths in the state of Maryland since 1965. The council reports at least 10 different breeds or types of dogs were involved in those incidents. The council does not identify the breeds of dogs as it claims research in recent years has proven that visual identification of dogs of unknown origin is unreliable.

"While we can be sure these listed incidents involved varied types of dogs, we cannot be certain of the accuracy of most breed identifications," the site states.

Similarly to DogsBite.org, the National Canine Research Council reports there were 31 fatal dog attacks in America in 2011.

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