Three members of a McDowell County, West Virginia family were injured on Sunday, October 9, 2011, in a pit bull attack. The family pet was chained in the backyard of their Welch, WV home when it broke loose and attacked a three-year-old girl. Her grandfather and mother rushed to help the child and were viciously attacked. The three-year-old and grandfather suffered serious injuries and the pit bull was put down.

In 2009, a three-day-old baby boy in Hardy County, WV was viciously attacked and killed by the family’s pet pit bull. The pit bull refused to release the newborn infant during the struggle to save the baby.

Devastating events such as these ought to cause West Virginians to reconsider the wisdom in choosing dogs such as pit bulls as family pets. Typically, 77% of dog injuries are caused by dogs familiar to the victim, and most occur close to, or in, the owner’s home. Selective breeding practices that emphasize aggression and tenacity in such breeds work to increase these dogs’ negative impact on communities.

Pit Bulls only account for two percent of the dog population, but account for one-third of dog bite fatalities. Because of pit bulls’ record of mauling, serious injuries, and deaths, many countries worldwide ban or regulate ownership of this breed. Many US cities and towns also have passed legislation restricting ownership and increasing penalties on owners whose dogs are responsible for attacks.

Every forty seconds, someone in the United States seeks attention for a dog bite, approximately 800,000 per year. Most of the victims are children, and most (77%) are bitten on the face. In addition to the trauma of having been attacked by a vicious dog, almost $165 million annually is spent treating dog bites. In 2010, the average cost of a dog bite-related hospital stay was $18,200, approximately 50 percent higher than the average injury-related hospital stay.

West Virginia has a strict liability dog bite statute for dogs running at large, but a one-bite rule under other circumstances.

Dog bites can inflict cuts, lacerations, abrasions, crushing wounds, punctures, fractured bones, infection, and disfiguring scars, especially on the face. Dog owners have a legal responsibility to control their animals. In recent years, several owners of these dogs have been criminally prosecuted in homicide cases. Sadly, many victims of traumatic dog bites go uncompensated and personally incur the full cost of the injury resulting from a dog owner’s negligence.