Epidemiology and Assessment Division


The Animal Care and Control Division of the City of Fort Worth Public Health Department investigated 1,105 reported bite incidents between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001. Injury ranged in severity from minimal (26.3%) to requiring surgical treatment (1.4%). Most bite injuries were treated with first aid (54.2%), but 106 individuals (9.6%) required stitches. The majority of injuries from animal bites involved the extremities including the arms, legs and hands (72.5%), though 197 individuals (17.8%) received bite injuries to the head and 83 (7.5%) received bite injuries to the trunk.

Slightly more bite victims were male (54.6%) than female (45.4%). Most were between the ages of 31 and 60, though the next two largest age groups were 8 to 17 and 1 to 7 years old. Over sixty percent of bite victims were White, although Whites comprise only 45.8% of the Fort Worth population. Other racial/ethnic groups were represented proportionately or in lesser proportions compared to the 2000 Fort Worth population1. Age adjustment will be possible with the release of more detailed Census data later in the year.

Almost forty-percent (38.5%) of victims had at least a high school education. More than 45% of bite victims were either the owner or acquainted with the owner of the animal as either family, friend or neighbor. However, in most cases (73.7%), the owner was not present at the time of the incident. The majority of victims (78.6%) did not provoke the animal. Of those individuals who did, the most commonly cited situation was startling or awaking an animal (8.9%).

Most of the animals involved in bite incidents were dogs (82.4%). Cats were indicated in 16.2% of cases and other animals were cited in the remaining 1.4% of cases. Over twice as many male animals were involved in bite cases as females, 51.3% and 22.1% respectively, but animal gender was unknown for 26.6% of reported cases. The age of animal was unknown for the majority of bite incidents (63.3%). For those in which age was known, 32% of animals were 6 or more years old. Owned animals were involved in the majority of cases reported (75.3%), with stray and wild animals accounting for the remaining 24.7%.

Nearly ninety percent (89.2%) of animals involved in bite incidents were not vaccinated against rabies and over ninety-five percent (95.6%) were not licensed with the city. Domestic short haired cats made up the majority of cats involved in bite incidents, while Rottweilers, Shepherds, Retrievers, Chows, and Pit Bulls (as well as mixes of these breeds) were among the top five breeds of dog involved in bite incidents.

Analysis of bite frequency by day of the week indicates that Saturdays had the highest occurrence of animal bites (195), followed by Tuesdays and Fridays with 180 and 162 bites respectively. The graph of bite frequency by month shows an increase in animal bites during the early spring months, peaking in April.

Severe animal bites (resulting in either surgery or stitches) account for 121 of the 1105 reported incidents (11%). The majority of these victims (53.7%) were under 18 years of age and most were male (61.2%). Proportionately, more Whites (66.9%) were the victims of severe animal bites than Hispanics and African Americans, 18.2% and 11.6% respectively. At the time of the incident, the most commonly cited known activities of the victim were playing (15.7%) and walking (10.7%). Other activities identified by victims at the time of the incident included petting and teasing, but the majority (66.1%) of respondents reported engaging in "other" activities. Although the majority of severe bite victims (63.6%) did not report provoking the animal, over one third (36.4%) reported the animal was provoked compared to 19.7% for victims of less serious bites. The most common provocation cited was startling or awakening the animal (13.6%). Though 52.9% of severe bites were sustained to the extremities (hands, arms, legs), 40.5% of these incidents involved a bite to the head.

Most animals involved in severe bite incidents were dogs (96.7%). Of the four cats implicated in severe incidents, three were strays. Almost all of the dogs (94.9%) involved were owned. The two breeds of dog indicated in the most severe bite incidents were Rottweilers and Retrievers. The majority of animals involved in severe bites were male (71.1%). Age of animal was unknown in the majority of cases (52.9%). For the cases where age was known, 61.4% of animals were three years or younger. Again, a very high percentage of animals involved in severe bites were not vaccinated against rabies (84.3%) nor were they licensed with the city (95%).


Information regarding the animal owners is limited due to the owner’s reluctance to participate in the survey activity. However, where gender is known, owners of animals involved in severe bites are almost equally divided between the genders with males accounting for 51.7% of animal owners. Gender was unknown in 50.4% of the cases. Similarly, age was unknown in 58.6% of the cases. In cases where age is known, the majority (74%) of owners were between the ages of 31 and 60. Educational attainment is known in 52% of cases. Owners having completed high school and those completing college each account for 25.4% of the sample, while 4.8% report a grade school education and 44.4% of the sample report "other" educational experience.

Bite incidents were geocoded for use in a geographic information system. Initial geocoding was accomplished utilizing a street file that covers all of Tarrant County since the Animal Control service area extends outside of the city borders. Addresses that were not matched in this file were geocoded against an updated map of streets in the City of Fort Worth. Of the 1105 reported bite incidents, twenty-two addresses could not be mapped. This accounts for only 2% of bite cases.

Thematic mapping of bite frequency by different geographic strata indicates a higher concentration of incidents in the areas immediately south and northwest of the central city in the 76106, 76110, 76119, and 76133 ZIP codes. The second highest frequency stratum of bite incidents contains six ZIP codes: 76105, 76107, 76111, 76112, 76116, and 76137. This is largely consistent with results from the first nine months of the project. Thematic mapping of bites rates calculated by Census tract using 2000 population figures reveals a similar pattern as seen when frequency of bites is mapped by ZIP code. Two of the three high bite rate tracts are within the boundaries of the 76107 and 76119 ZIP codes. Both of these are among the top two strata of ZIP code areas by bite frequency. The third tract identified with a high rate of bites lies mainly within the 76104 ZIP code boundary, though seven of the eight bites reported in this tract are within the 76103 boundary. All of these bites occurred along East Lancaster Avenue and four were reported from the same address. Upon further investigation, this address was found to be that of the Humane Society of North Texas.

Spatial analyses to determine the distributions of more detailed characteristics of bite incidents is ongoing. Maps of bite distributions in two ZIP code areas from the highest frequency stratum (76110 and 76119) have been utilized in the planning of educational interventions targeting potential victims and animal owners. Analyses of bites by species and confinement status have directed the deployment of media resources to address the bite prevention education needs of the area. Post-intervention evaluation of animal bite distribution will be conducted to assess the effectiveness of the program.

Mapping of animal bite incidents has proven useful in presenting data to different segments of the population. Neighborhood associations who have historically been resistant to join in collaborative efforts have supported intervention activities as a result of the visual representation of bite occurrences. Additionally, the local news media has publicized and promotes the project based on the compelling nature of maps displaying the distribution of bites in the community. The capacity to represent spatial data in the medium of a map has proven itself an invaluable tool in visualizing data and making results understandable to the general public.


1U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Redistricting Data Summary File.