China or America: poor parenting and poor pet ownership is the major cause of dog bites

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Child and dog

A study conducted in China in 2016 looked at the risk of dog bites and cat scratches in two cities; one a medium-sized city, Shantou, and the other a large conurbation, Shenzhen. The general conclusion that I have to draw from the studies that children are most at risk of dog bites and indeed cat scratches. Dogs are kept as guard dogs in the urban environment of Shenzhen whereas the percentage of cats is higher in Shantou where there is a rat problem.

Child and dog

Child and dog. Image by Alain Audet from Pixabay

The conclusion was that children with poor academic performance were a risk group in respect of being bitten by their dog which appears to be compounded by mothers who go out to work and have a low educational level. The study appears to paint a picture of relatively poor people, perhaps single mothers, who have to go out to work and leave a dog and child insufficiently supervised whereupon the risk of a dog bite to their child is much higher than normal. That’s my interpretation. The study refers to the children as “left-behind children”. It’s a reference to children being left at home where they are insufficiently supervised. This is not a criticism because these circumstances are probably forced in these mothers. It is an example, though, of the general human condition concerning pet ownership which too often fails.

The same sort of risk of injury applies to cats although the injury is less likely to be as severe. Travelling to America to make comparisons, it takes little research to come to the conclusion that children are mostly at risk of dog bites. A statistical website tells me that 80% of dog bites happen at home and that 51% of all dog bite victims are children aged 12 or younger. The risk is highest for children between the ages of five and nine. Pretty well all the statistics apply to children when it comes to dog bites.

In America, emergency department visits for dog bite injuries between 2001-2016 tells us that the biggest risk group is in the 5-9 age range followed by the 0-4 age group. The rate per 100,000 is 223.64 children in the 5-9 age group, whereas for people who are 85-years-of-age the rate is 42.18 per 100,000.

The conclusion, in very general terms (because this is a very complex and granular topic) is that if dog bites and cat scratches are to be minimised there has to be better supervision of children at home where there are cats and/or dogs combined with better levels of enlightenment and education with respect to cat and dog ownership and the inherent hazards of that relationship.

The China study: A Comparative Study of Dog- and Cat-Induced Injury on Incidence and Risk Factors among Children. Statistics for America: https://maxlawsc.com/dog-bite-statistics.