As a result of a perceived increase in pit bull injuries, all children who presented to The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia during 1989 for evaluation of dog bite injuries were prospectively studied. Epidemiologic information was collected from parents, either at the time of visit or by phone on the following day. A total of 168 children were enrolled; the mean age was 8 years. Males outnumbered females 1.5:1. Most (61%) injuries occurred in or around the home and involved dogs known to the patient (77%). Types of injuries included abrasions (33%), punctures (29%), and lacerations (38%). Thirteen bites had associated complications; nine developed infection. Twelve (7%) children required admission to the hospital. More than 12 different purebreeds or crossbreeds were identified as perpetrators, including German shepherds (n = 35), pit bulls (n = 33), rottweilers (n = 9), and Dobermans (n = 7). Most (54%) animals were contained (ie, leashed, fenced, in-house) at the time of injury. Fewer (46%) were provoked prior to biting. Significantly more pit bull injuries (94% vs 43%, P < .001) were the consequence of unprovoked attacks and involved freely roaming animals (67% vs 41%, P < .01). Children aged 5 or younger were more likely to provoke animals prior to injury than were older children (69% vs 36%, P < .001). It is recommended that families with young children be the target of pet safety education and that measures be sought that would lead to early identification of a potentially dangerous dog and restrict ownership.

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