Headline Facts and Figures

Incidence of dog bites in people

  • Each year approximately 4.5million people are bitten in the USA (representing 1.5% of the total population), with 800,000 bites requiring medical attention and 370,000 bites severe enough to be treated in emergency departments (ED). CDC (2010), Gilchrist et al (2009)
  • 100,000 people are bitten annually in Belgium, equivalent to 1 % of the population. Gisle et al (2001)
  • Figures from the UK’s Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System (HASS/LASS) show that 69,000 people attended hospital Accident and Emergency departments in 2002. ROSPA (2010)
  • It is estimated that 50% of dog bites remain unreported. Bernardo (2002), Kahn et al (2004)
  • Adults are also most often bitten by a familiar dog, though the site of injury in adults and older children is more commonly the extremities. Guy et al. (2004)
  • Fatalities from dog bites are rare in the developed world. In the Netherlands approximately one person dies following a dog bite each year. This compares to 11 fatalities resulting from sporting injuries and 23 following household accidents. LNV (2008)

Incidence and site of bites in children

  • The majority of accidents involving children are within the home involving a known dog. Horisberger (2002), Kahn et al (2003)
  • The prevalence of dog bites in children is double that of the general population. Kahn et al (2003)
  • Dog bites in young children often result in facial or neck injuries. Bernado et al (2002), Kahn et al( 2003)
  • With regard to the incidence of facial bites – this appears unrelated to the size of the dog. The only correlating factor is the age of the child. Bernardo et al (2002), Kahn et al (2003)
  • 55% of children suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following a substantial bite. Peters et al (2004)
  • It has been shown that young children explore novel objects, especially those that are mobile, with their face. Meints et al (2010)
  • Young children score badly in discriminating dog body language and look mainly at the face of the dog to make their decisions.Lakestani et al (2005)
  • Very young children may misinterpret a snarling dog for one that is smiling. Meints et al (2010).

Geographic location of dog bites

  • Contrary to popular belief, only 20% of all dog bites occur in a public place. Kahn et al (2003), Miller and Howell (2007), Gilchrist et al (2003)
  • 80% of all dog bites occur in the home. Kahn et al (2003), Miller and Howell (2007), Gilchrist et al (2003)
  • The majority of accidents involving children are within the home involving a known dog. Horisberger (2002), Kahn et al (2003)

Dog breeds and bites

  • All types of dog have the potential to bite. AVMA (2001), Overall et al (2001), Kahn et al (2003), Reisner et al (2007)
  • There is no evidence that particular breeds are more dangerous than others. Sacks et al (2000)
  • The difficulties in determining a dog’s breed with certainty result in constitutional and practical issues in enforcement of breed specific legislation. Sacks et al (2000)
  • In a study questioning 3226 owners, small breeds of dog appeared to be responsible for the majority of bites within the home. Guy et al (2001)
  • Studies using the Canine Behavioural Assessment questionnaire (C-BARQ) give big variations and differences in dog breeds showing dog-to-dog aggression (eg: Akitas, Pit Bull terriers) compared to those showing dog-to-human aggression (eg: Dachshunds, Chihuahua, JRT); However, the authors stressed it was inappropriate to make predictions about a given dog’s propensity for aggressive behaviour based solely on its breed.Duffy et al (2008)

Dog related factors associated with bites

  • Dogs presented at a veterinary referral hospital for aggression, having bitten a child, showed no correlation to specific breeds, gender, neuter status, or history of training. Reisner et al (2007)
  • In the above study, 66% of dogs presented at a veterinary referral hospital for aggression, having bitten a child, had previously been taken to obedience classes. Reisner et al (2007)
  • In the above study, 93% of dogs presented at a veterinary referral hospital for aggression, having bitten a child, had previously been neutered. Reisner et al (2007)
  • The risk of biting may be increased in the presence of pain or disease in the pet. Reisner et al (2007)
  • 77% of dogs involved in bite incidents were suffering from an emotional disorder. Reisner et al (2007)
  • The majority of dogs that bite are motivated by fear or anxiety. Shepherd  (2002), Mertens (2002), Reisner and Shofer (2008)
  • Education by means of physical punishment or other forms of physical force should be considered as a risk factor in facilitating a fear response and aggression. Hiby et al (2004), Herron et al (2009)

Context of dog bites in a public place

  • 20% of all dog bites occur in a public place. Kahn et al (2003), Miller and Howell (2007), Gilchrist et al (2003)
  • In those bite incidents occurring in public places, 51% of the dogs were not adequately confined, 31% were close to their home environment, and 9% were in parks and open spaces. Kahn et al (2003), Miller and Howell (2007), Gilchrist et al (2003)
  • In those bite incidents occurring in public places, the children were generally over 7yo and the dog was unfamiliar to them. There was no interaction from child in 80% of the cases. Kahn et al (2003), Cornellissen and Hopster (2009)
  • Bites occurring in public places often attract media attention, contributing to the perception of dogs being dangerous or unsafe in these situations. LNV (2008)

Accident Prevention in general

  • Young children’s knowledge of safety rules does not reduce the frequency of their injuries. Morrongiello et al (2001),   Schwebel et al (2002), Zeedijck et al (2001)
  • In relation to domestic accidents in children between 3 and 5 years of age, physical proximity was the only aspect of supervision behaviour that served a protective function and related to young children’s risk taking behaviour. Morongiello et al (2004)

Parental supervision

  • The majority of accidents occur when there is lack of active parental supervision. Kahn et al (2003)
  • In relation to domestic accidents in children between 3 and 5 years of age, physical proximity was the only aspect of supervision behaviour that served a protective function and related to young children’s risk taking behaviour. Morongiello et al (2004)
  • Parental input had a positive effect on children’s ability to learn from the Blue Dog CD. Meints and De Keuster (2009)

Status Dogs

  • In 2010, the number of Staffordshire Bull Terriers (pure and cross-breeds) handled by a large rescue centre in London was 2,481, representing 40.5% of the total. In the UK, there is an increasing problem of anti-social behaviour where dogs are used in an aggressive or intimidating way towards the public or other animals. This often, though not exclusively, involves young people on inner city estates and may involve subjecting the dogs to fights. RSPCA (2010)
  • In the UK, the RSPCA received 358 calls specifically about dog fighting in 2007, compared with 137 in 2006 and 24 in 2004. The Metropolitan Police of London seized 1152 dogs under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991) in 2009/10, compared to 173 in 2006/7. Grant (2011)
  • There is evidence of a correlation between ownership of high risk dogs and the presence of deviant behaviours in the owner as indicated by court convictions. Barnes et al ( 2006)
  • A significant difference in criminal behaviour based on the types of dog owned has been reported. Owners of vicious dogs were significantly more likely to admit to violent behaviour compared to owners of other types of dog. Ragatz et al. (2009)

Dogs, shelters and behaviour problems

  • In the USA, it is estimated around 8 million dogs and cats are handled by shelters and rescue centres each year with approximately 3.5-4 million being euthanized. Rowan (2010)
  • 224,000 dogs and cats are euthanized annually in the USA by vets for behaviour problems. Patronek and Dodman (1999)
  • 40% of owners who were relinquishing dogs to animal shelters in USA cited behavioural problems as one of the reasons for surrendering the dog. Salaman et al (1998)
  • When behaviour is the only reason for relinquishment, aggression is most frequently cited. Salaman et al (1998)
  • 41% of dogs adopted from a shelter in the US demonstrated aggressive behaviour once in the new home. Christensen et al (2003)
  • 70% of dogs presented to veterinary behaviourists have a diagnosis of aggression. Landsberg (1991)

Rabies

  • More than 98% of human deaths from rabies are the consequence of a bite from a rabid dog. World Health Organisation statistics
  • There are 55,000 human deaths per year (mainly in Africa and Asia), 83% occurring in rural areas. Children are more commonly affected, and this equates to 100 deaths in children every day. World Health Organisation statistics
  • All the tools for the control and elimination of human rabies are currently available. What is lacking is awareness, motivation and the political will. Alliance for Rabies Control

 

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