Dog attack victims near record high, NHS figures show

Surrey: Woman dies after dog attack in Caterham

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The number of people needing treatment following dog bite attacks is heading towards a record high, new figures reveal. Latest data released by the NHS show that between April 2022 and November 2022 hospitals recorded 6,244 admissions – which is around 30 a day. If that trend continues until the end of April this year, admissions will top 10,000.

The staggering number would be well above the 8,819 cases that hospitals had coming through their doors between April 2021 – April 2022.

The stats, which were released this week, also indicate it is young children who are suffering the worst injuries in attacks.

Between April 2022 and November last year 2,345 people required surgery to correct dog bite attacks. Of those, 255 were aged four and under; 246 were aged five to nine and 186 were aged 10 to 14.

Common procedures following a dog bite include eyebrow stitches and repairs to eyelids and earlobes.

Experts say the highest incidence of dog bites is in Merseyside, followed by Wakefield, Middlesborough, north-east England, then London.

Two people have already been killed by dogs this year: dog walker Natasha Johnston was mauled to death in Caterham and a four-year-old girl was killed in a back garden in Milton Keynes.

Last year was a record year for deaths with ten people losing their lives in dog attacks.

Commenting on the recent rise Harley Street skin camouflage and scar therapy consultant Vanessa Jane Davies said: “I have seen a significant rise in referrals for children and adults who have been bitten or struck by a dog.

“I treat men and women on a monthly basis for dog attacks, however, it’s often the young children who are at the highest risk of dog attack injuries and they are particularly vulnerable to bites to the face and neck.

“Every case is different, but typically the injuries are permanent and potentially life-changing which requires long-term care both medically and psychologically, often resulting in a fear of dogs, losing confidence to be out and about and requiring Skin Camouflage Services to help with the appearance and management of their scars.

“Children will have rehabilitation support up to becoming an adult to help manage surgical procedures, skin grafts, laser treatment and support to help them adjust to what has happened and their changed appearance.”

The RSPCA said anyone who is concerned about their dog’s behaviour should speak to their vet and a clinical animal behaviourist for advice.

Canine behaviourists and dangerous dog expert Shaun Hesmondhalgh said the rise of pet ownership during the covid lockdown resulted in unscrupulous breeding of animals.

He said: “The NHS may well be reporting a sharp rise in dog related injuries, that is likely to be related to the significant rise in the number of people owning a dog.

“The rise in dog popularity during the pandemic is well publicised and this has resulted in mass breeding for profit.

“Dogs were being bred on a large scale and in some cases crudely. Puppy farming, amateur breeding, designer breeding, and power breeding all arguably contributing to the birth of dogs with underlying health conditions and worrying genetically predisposed inappropriate and aggressive behaviour.

“There is also the matter of dog owners exaggeratedly humanising their dogs, misunderstanding their dogs selective breed traits, and failing to recognise that dogs of any breed require boundaries and limitations.”

Behaviourist Jane Robinson, chair of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers, said owners often underestimated the commitment needed to successfully care for a pet dog.

She said: “Dogs are a highly social species but no dog has a moral compass. They don’t know right from wrong.

“Despite having been bred for centuries to live among humans, they are captive animals, they have no choice as to who they interact with and what they do from day to day.

“If we’re expecting dogs to thrive in our complex human society, then we have to set them up for success, educate ourselves as to what’s happening at their end of the lead, guide them to make good choices and reward them when they get it right.

“This all takes commitment, both practically, emotionally and financially.”

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