Big increase in dog bite victims needing hospital treatment in UK

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20 per cent increase in dog bites in UK over past 20 years

There’s been a tripling over 20 years in the number of adults admitted to hospital for dog bites. The cost to the NHS is £70 million annually according to a study.

20 per cent increase in dog bites in UK over past 20 years

20 per cent increase in dog bites in UK over past 20 years. Image by Adina Voicu from Pixabay

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What are the reasons? It is proposed that these are the reasons:

  • A general rise in the dog population from 7.9 million in 2010 to 9 million in 2018;
  • A trend to adopt small breeds of dog which leads adopters to believe that small dogs will not bite or are less dangerous than larger dogs. This leads them to mishandle the dogs causing them to bite;
  • A rash of adoptions during the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns by people unfamiliar with dogs who feel that it was a good moment to adopt one. These are inexperienced dog owners and many of them did indeed adopt small dogs such as the French bulldog which has become incredibly popular. So inexperience, currently, is a factor;
  • An increase in unsocialised dogs imported into the country illegally from puppy farms on continental Europe. Unsocialised dogs or badly socialised dogs will be more inclined to be aggressive towards people and therefore bite them.

The study from the University of Liverpool found that there was almost no change in the likelihood of children being bitten over the same period. The annual incidence of children being bitten is at 14 per 100,000. The stability of this statistic has been put down to public information campaigns about the risk to children of dog bites.

It is suggested in the study that adults may benefit from similar campaigns.

More education is required as provided by the Merseyside Dog Safety Partnership. This is a cooperative venture involving the University of Liverpool, Merseyside Police, Liverpool City Council, Royal Mail and the Dogs Trust. It offers advice about how to stay safe when around dogs.

The highest incidence of dog bites occurred in deprived areas of the UK such as Merseyside and Wakefield. High rates of dog bites also occurred in rural areas. Knowsley, Wakefield, Middlesbrough, Redcar, Cleveland and St Helens were the local authorities with the highest average annual incidence of dog bites per 100,000 people. The lowest were City of London, Harrow, Brent, Barnet, Isle of Wight and Haringey. The best i.e. the place where dog bites are the least common is the City of London at 1.1 people per 100,000 people compared to the worst which is Knowsley at 24.2 bites per 100,000 people. The average figure across all local authorities was 8.

The report has been published in Scientific Reports.