Rats, cats, raccoons and bats made the list of animal bites the city's Commission on Animal Care and Control logged during 2011. But the most commonly reported cases of animal bites goes to the dogs.
In fact, canines accounted for about 98 percent of just more than 1,830 bites that were reported in 2011. Nearly every day of the year saw at least one report of an animal bite, ranging from small scratches to major injuries that required hospitalization. While the Loop and the Near North Side saw relatively few reports of animal bite incidents in 2011, city data shows a relatively even distribution of reports through Chicago's North, South and West sides.
Last year, the category that accounted for the largest percentage of bite reports was the pit bull, or mixes of that animal, at 26 percent, according to the city's designations for classifying dogs. Types that couldn't be identified made up the second-largest group, at about 19 percent. American pit bull terriers rounded out the top three at 13 percent.
Bites were reported in a variety of locations, from private residences to public parks, and made up less than 2010's total of slightly more than 1,900. They were down 11 percent from 2009, said Brad Powers, assistant to the director of the Commission on Animal Care and Control. He credits that decline to increased public education initiatives.
Powers noted that while certain types of dogs may seem to bite more than others based on the records, there are many factors to keep in mind. For one, he said, a dog's type is logged based on the victim's account or the police officer's best interpretation of the animal, and may not always be accurate. Additionally, because of a low compliance rate with city requirements that dogs must be registered, it's impossible to know how many dogs actually live within city limits, let alone the numbers of each type of dog therein. According to the most recent data from the Chicago City Clerks office, pit bulls or mixes of that animal account for about 4.5 percent of the 37,546 dogs registered dogs in the city.
Powers said the commission retains all the information for records but does not analyze data based on the type of dog. Additionally, he said, the majority of the bites reported were from an animal to a neighbor or family member, and that bites from strays or strange dogs are relatively rare.
"We enforce the city of Chicago municipal code equitably over all animal owners," he said. "Regardless of the breed we are going to take action, whether issuing citations or having an investigation. ... The goal, the real focus of the investigation, is to identify the actions of the dog, regardless of the breed."
Powers said all incidents of animal bites are investigated by an officer from the commission. The outcome of an investigation varies and can include anything from banishing the animal, issuing the owner a citation or taking no action at all. In some cases, an animal can be declared "dangerous" by the city, subjecting the owner to a number of special requirements to keep the dog. Currently, Powers said, about 140 dogs in the city have received such a designation.
As for location, the 60629 ZIP code, which includes Chicago Lawn and West Lawn on the Southwest Side, saw the highest concentration of bites with 95 in 2011. Two parts of the Loop, the areas covering ZIP codes 60606 and 60602, saw the least with one apiece.
The most common citations issued, he said, are for an owner having an unregistered dog and not having proper rabies vaccinations.
"If those two things have occurred, it's a pretty strong indication that your ability to control your animal has come into question," he said.
While the number of bites has declined, Powers said it still is important that animal owners know their responsibilities.
"Even though we may have progressed in the past few years on dog bites," he said, "we need to increase education."
A little more than 1,830 animal bites were logged by the city's Animal Care and Control department in 2011. The data reveals that most bites are dogs to humans, according to city data. Below is a breakdown of the top ten.
Pit bull/Pit bull mixed: 26.43%
American pit bull terrier: 13.38%
German shepherd/German shepherd mixed: 4.91%
Labrador retriever: 3.54%
Mixed breed: 3.27%
Rottweiler/Rottweiler mixed: 3.16%
Chihuahua/Chihuahua mixed: 2.73%
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