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Dog Bites Man: Was It Pedigree or Poverty?

Dog bite is a rare mishap for most people but your chances of being bitten start to go up if you live in a lower income neighborhood and own a pedigree pooch. If you also happen to be a boy under age 10 and it's the middle of summer ... watch out!

These are just some of the quirky findings from an Oregon research study reported in February's Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Researchers from the Health & Science University, in Portland, and the state's Public Health Division studied factors relating to dog bites among the 677,813 humans and 47,526 canines living in Multnomah County, Oregon.

During the 12-month study period, researchers considered 636 bite incidents and identified risk factors associated with certain breed categories, non-neutered males and purebred dogs.

Researchers singled out terriers, including "pit bull-type dogs", working dogs such as Rottweilers and herding dogs like German shepherds. "In situations where they are not controlled, these dogs could revert to instinctual behaviors," said the study. "In addition, bites from these breeds can result in more serious injury because of their size and strength."

Dogs in lower income neighborhoods may not receive the same training or supervision as in more affluent areas, suggested the researchers. They also noted additional potential factors in poorer areas such as more children playing outdoors, less adequate fencing and a higher proportion of large dogs.

More than one third of victims did not know the dog that bit them yet among children under 5, almost half were bitten by the family dog; 35 percent of attacks happened in the dog's household and almost the same number during the summer.

Among the victims, boys aged 5 to 9 were most at risk, suffering a bite rate almost twice as high as the overall population.

"Children are particularly vulnerable because of their small physical size and lack of experience to handle or defend themselves against an aggressive dog," said the researchers, who urged owners to minimize dog biting through obedience training, neutering and supervision.