“We live and die in public health based on how good our data is,”
– CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden
On February 4, I wrote a letter to my representative, Congressman Paul Ryan. I wanted to know why the CDC had stopped tracking dog bite fatality information by breeds of dogs in 1998.
After my son was brutally attacked and killed by his babysitter’s two pit bulls on March 6, 2013, I did not talk to the news media. This was far too painful. Instead, I began doing a lot of research on my own about this issue. By June, I felt armed enough with information and ready to share my story with the public. When I agreed to do the WISN interview, I was very adamant in wanting the public to know the current 2013 statistics. By early June, pit bulls were responsible for 93% of all dog bite fatalities (13 of 14 total); my son was one of these deaths.
I was so adamant that the statistics be aired in the segment that I went as far as stating them at least ten times during the lengthy interview. The reporter that interviewed me was very kind and the final story that aired tugged at the heartstrings of the viewer, but she did not use the statistics that I was so insistent on. The next day I asked her why? She said that management uses CDC statistics because it is a universally accepted website; they cite a variety of health related statistics from their website. But the CDC stopped tracking fatalities by dog breed statistics 15-years ago, so there was not any data to cite in my segment. My son’s death and hundreds of others since 1998 are simply uncollected data.
My experience with WISN, along with other similar experiences I have later, compelled me to reach out to my congressman the following year.
Our meeting was scheduled for January 17 in Janesville. My wife, (Kimberly) Susan Iwicki, (the babysitter) and myself attended the meeting. We brought a binder full of materials, including letters written by victims, pictures of the severe injuries, statistical information and the 2011 Texas Study, Mortality, Mauling and Maiming by Vicious Dogs. We first shared with him our fondest memories of Dax and the type of boy that he was. This was tense and emotional. Then after reviewing some of the materials that we brought, we began talking about the history and purpose of the American Pit Bull Terrier in dogfighting and why these dogs disproportionately kill people. He listened intently as we spoke. In the end though, he said there were not many ways that he could help us on a federal level.
We told him actually there was something he could do at the federal level, and that was to ask the CDC why they stopped tracking fatal dog attack statistics by breeds in 1998. After we told him this, the conversation changed. He said that he would help us by submitting a letter to the CDC through his office.
Next, I turned to DogsBite.org, a 501(c)(3) national dog bite victims’ group, who had agreed to prepare a document explaining the past conditions, since the release of the CDC study in 2000, through present day conditions to help me present my case to my congressman. On February 13, I received this document from DogsBite.org and the process of making an inquiry to the CDC began in earnest.
The results of this process are summarized in the Joint Statement by Daxton’s Friends and DogsBite.org. Links to the related source documents of this multi-party correspondence are included on page 2. The CDC’s response to our materials and the inquiry made by my congressman were primarily artificial. Our solution to this inadequate response is clarified in the Joint Statement, “If the existing system fails to track critical data then fix the system so that it does.”
Children mauled by these dogs are LifeFlighted every day in this country with no end in sight. And the primary government body, whose mission is to protect America from health, safety and security threats, is unwilling to collect a richer data set about these victims. The CDC will not even collect more data about the attacks that end in death, about 32 annually.
Key related documents:
- Joint Summary Statement by DogsBite.org and Daxton’s Friends
- Congressman’s Inquiry Letter to the CDC (March 13, 2014)
- Jeff Borchardt’s Enclosed Letter to His Congressman
- DogsBite.org’s Enclosed Remedy Document and Attachments
- CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden’s Response (April 28, 2014)
Founder and President
Daxton’s Friends For Canine Education & Awareness
Suggested hashtags for victims’ advocates: #trackbetterdata #fixthesystem #cdc