Friday, April 27, 2012

Breeds and Deeds

A recent report on Dog Breeds that Don’t Mix Well with Kids (now taken down) has once again raised the issue of safe versus dangerous breeds again. When it comes to making any judgment about animals it is wise to refer to reliable data, as myths and misinformation abound.

Children are the most common victim of serious dog bites, and parents should certainly be careful in their selection, management and supervision of a pet dog. However breed is typically not the most important consideration.

Young children should be supervised around dogs and taught appropriate behaviour. Dogs should be socialized and trained. And children should be kept separate from dogs that are aggressive or may bite for any reason, or are large and boisterous.

Studies suggest a range of breeds that may represent a somewhat elevated risk of bite injury. However this is often caused indirectly by ownership styles associated with that breed, local genetics, and prevalence of the breed in an area. When appropriate experimental controls are employed the role of breed is not primary and the breeds identified as higher risk vary by place and time.

And you may be surprised to find that most of the breeds identified by these studies are not the ‘usual suspects’.

For more information see: 
• Berzon DR. The animal bite epidemic in Baltimore, Maryland: review and update. Am I Public Health. 1978;68:593-595.
• Castelein C, Klouda J, Hirsch H. The bite case scenario—it is not what you think. In: WFHS newsletter. Madison, Wis: Wisconsin Humane Society, 1996;Sep:12–14. Cited in: Overall KL, Love M. Dog bites to humans: demography, epidemiology, injury, and risk. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2001;218:1923-1934.
• Gershman KA, Sacks JJ, Wright JC. Which dogs bite: a case-control study of risk factors. Pediatrics 1994;93:913-917.
• Greenhalgh C, Cockington R, Raftos I. An epidemiological survey of dog bites presenting to the emergency department of a children's hospital . J Paediatr Child Health 1991; 27: 171-174.
• Guy, N, Canine household aggression in the caseload of general veterinary practitioners in Maritime Canada, Master of Science thesis, Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, 1999
• Hanna, TL, Selby LA. Characteristics of the human and pet populations in animal bite incidents recorded at two Air Force bases. Public Health Rep. 1981;96:580-584.
• Lauer EA, White WC, Lauer BA. Dog bites: a neglected problem in accident prevention. AJDC. 1982;136:202-204.
• Szpakowski NM, Bonnett BN, Martin SW. An epidemiological investigation into the reported incidents of dog biting in the Cityof Guelph. Can Vet J 1989;30:937–942.
• Thompson PG. The public health impact of dog attacks in a major Australian city. Med J Aust 1997;167:129¬-32.

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