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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
So I have a big statistics project coming up where we can pick any topic that we'd like.

Naturally my mind traveled to the thought of working with dog bite statistics, as there seems to be a good number of sites on the internet pertaining to this topic.

Basically what I need to do is:

  • Identify my topic
  • Collect data on my topic
  • Design a statistic (we're still at the beginnings of the course so I don't know exactly how to go about this, but I should learn more over time)
  • Analyze the statistic - what do the numbers mean?
  • Write up my work in report form
What I was thinking of doing is uncovering the reasons why dog bite statistics are so lopsided - with tangible things such as breed popularity. Although it isn't exactly foolproof, I thought about using Petfinder searches to get a rough estimate of one breeds' popularity relative to another. I may, additionally, be able to contact my city's Animal Control, but I am unsure if they'd be willing to give me their numbers.

Does this sound doable? Any good angles I can take on this project? Can you give me any important things to think about?

Crap. Put this in the wrong forum..

Mods, can you move this to General?
 

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Are you trying to correlate dog bite stats with breed popularity, i.e. the reason XX's show up so often at the top of the bite list is because there are so many more of them out there?

I'm not sure petfinder stats would show popularity overall. In fact, wouldn't they show the opposite -- unpopularity? Otherwise why would the dogs be looking for homes? AKC registrations might be a better measure, although it has the obvious problem of excluding non-registered and mixed breed dogs.

Might you get some stats from an outfit like Avid? They keep track of breed. Doesn't get at all the un-chipped dogs. But maybe if you looked at several different popularity measures (petfinder, avid, craigslist, akc, etc.) you would find a correlation that holds true for all. Or not. You don't have to prove a positive, do you? Just have to show your math and how you got to your conclusions, right?
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I guess you *could* argue that Petfinder would show unpopularity, but for lack of a better source, the way I see it is that breeds listed on Petfinder are going to be a decent example of the breeds that wind up in average dog owners' homes. The logic is slightly flawed, yes, but it's the best I could come up with right now..

The AKC stats do not include the Pit Bull (since it's not really a breed), and AST and SBTs aren't exactly in the top tiers of registration popularity, compared to breeds like the Lab, Yorkie, etc. Besides, while there are always bad seeds and certainly poorly bred dogs registered with the AKC, I think it is fair to say that the AKC's stats are somewhat skewed towards people who are active with their dogs, possibly in shows, breeding, etc, so therefore might not be the best indicator of what breeds wind up with the irresponsible people that allow them to get in trouble.

I also thought of using ATTS stats because they're available online, but I can't imagine that the owners of biting dogs frequently test their dogs' temperaments, therefore I don't think the "problem" dogs are really included in here as well.

What you said is exactly what I thought of doing.. using a whole BUNCH of different stats (Petfinder, AKC, ATTS, whatever else) and see what I come up with. Either way I plan to make my point by saying that it's all the owners' fault, I just need to show the math first :)

I spoke with my professor about it and he liked the idea. Thanks for your help, winnie.
 

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Would be interesting to see what you come up with. It's always fun bustin' a myth w/math! Ok, that was way too geeky....
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I'm not terribly fond of math, actually. I just got finished up with a Calc course and I secretly hope that I never see the squiggly S of an integral again. Ahh..

But I'm REALLY glad to be researching something that I actually like. Out of all the work I have this semester, this is one of the things that I think I'll actually enjoy doing.
 

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In addition to the police reports, most states require that hospitals and clinics report treatment of dog bites. I'm not sure who they send that information to or if there's one place that gathers all the numbers. There may be some overlap in the numbers and I suspect that's where they sometimes get distorted.
 

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I think there might be a problem getting an accurate breed description of the dog that bit. A lot of the time it would be a guess. Any large, short haired dog, with a blocky head will be a pitbull, even if it's a poorly bred lab. People's biases about certain breeds may skew your stats.

All ERs are required to report dog bites. The paperwork usually involves recording the type of dog and who the owner is and the circumstances. You might try to find out which agency your local hospital reports to: the health department, Animal Control, the local police, etc and see if you can research their stats.

As far as finding out dog breed popularities by area, some cities require all dogs to be registered. City hall may be able to give you some stats on local breeds. Local vets' offices might also give you a rough estimate.
 

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Another issue you may have is that a lot of bites go unreported. Based purely on my own anecdotal experiences, I would imagine many small dog bites don't ever get reported because it's family and friends getting bitten. Even when it is a stranger, the smaller breeds simply don't do the damage that larger breeds do so many folks don't bother seeking medical attention unless it becomes infected.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
All of the things said here are right.. there are a lot of ways for these statistics to get REALLY dirty. When I spoke to my professor about it, he said the same thing.. but he also said it's very hard to get good statistics in most areas, so maybe the "dirtiness" of these stats simply indicates that we can learn nothing from them.

The only problem with city stats is anonymizing (is that a word?) hundreds of dog bite incidents. I have a feeling that hasn't been done, so it won't be available to the public. I do like the idea about asking vets, though, even if not for an actual number, but just out of interest to see what they say/what they know.
 
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