Dog Bite Data Fail

In the Sunday, November 30th, Boulder Daily Camera is an article titled “Labs account for bulk of bites.” The article misleads readers to conclude that Labs and Lab mix dog breeds are a biting risk on the Front Range. Indeed, even animal control investigator, Sgt. Stephen Romero, is quoted as saying, “It’s Labs and Lab mixes that bite more than any other animal.” This is incorrect if one analyzes the data provided in the article more carefully than the article’s authors. This misstep may also be exemplary in part of a bigger social issue: our failure to effectively teach math and science in the public schools.

The article is written by Burt Hubbard and Jeremy Jojola of Rocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News and states that of the 6,500 dog bites reported between 2012 and early 2014, “about two-thirds” have dog breed data available. This means that roughly 4,333 dogs of known breeds were involved in reported biting incidents. The article states that one in every seven dogs (14.3%) registered along the Front Range are Labs and Lab mixes. If biting is random among dog breed, we would expect (0.143 X 4,333) 620 Lab and Lab mix biting incidents. However, the observed Lab and Lab mix biting incidents numbers only 416 (9.6%), or two-thirds of the expected. This means that Labs and Lab mixes are actually biting at a much lower rate than we would expect randomly, and that one or more non Lab or Lab mix dog breed out there is biting people out of proportion of its presence on the Front Range. These are the dog breeds of which we should be more wary during encounters. Which breed or breeds are they?

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