Every day along the Front Range, at least eight people are bitten by dogs, according to an investigation by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News.
Officials said the numbers may seem high, but the public should not be surprised.
“If a dog has teeth, it has the potential to bite,” said Sgt. Stephen Romero, animal control investigator in Denver. “And if it’s in the right conditions, circumstances, it can potentially bite.”
I-News and 9News analyzed bite incidents from most major cities and counties along the Front Range from Colorado Springs to Boulder that took place between 2012 and early 2014. The investigation found that about 6,500 dog bites were reported to police or animal control officials. That’s more than eight a day.
The breeds of the biting dogs were available for about two thirds of the bites. It showed that Labradors and lab mixes were most prone to biting, accounting for 416 of the bites. However, they were also the most popular pet breed, accounting for about one in every seven dogs registered along the Front Range, so there are many more of them.
“It’s labs and lab mixes that bite more than any other animal,” said Romero who got an infection from a lab bite while on duty. “Labs are good dogs. It’s just how you raise them.”
Labradors were followed by German shepherds, pit bulls, Chihuahuas and bulldogs in numbers of bites.
Alice Nightengale, director of the Denver Animal Shelter, said humans can be as much to blame for dog bites as their pets.
“Just because a dog bites does not mean it’s a bad dog,” Nightengale said. “I think humans have a lot of responsibility for dog bites.”
Several jurisdictions, including El Paso and Douglas County, which accounted for about 2,000 bites, included the severity and where people were bit. It showed only about 4 percent were deemed severe with 1-in-4 considered moderate and seven in 10 labeled minor.
The same data also included information on where humans were bit. Hands were the most common, accounting for about 34 percent of the 2,000 bites. That was followed by leg bites, 23 percent. Bites to the face including eyes, noses and ears accounted for 19.4 percent and bites to the arms comprised 15 percent.
The circumstances leading to dog bites varied. Sometimes, they may be protecting their territory from intrusion and other times they feel threatened, said dog trainer Sean Miller.
“Once a dog does bite someone, they immediately gain a sense of control because 100 percent of the time we flinch,” Miller said.
Hillary Penner suffered serious bites to the hand while she was trying to help her female dog get away from another dog that had attacked her pet. She said she has no regrets.
“Even though, I have scars on my arms … I am lucky I have her at the end of the day,” Penner said.
Jeremy Jojola 9News contributed to this report. To read more on the I-News, 9News collaboration “K9 Confidential” click here.