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Serious dog bites primarily occur at home, says University of Calgary study

Calgary Herald logo Calgary Herald 2019-06-19 Stephanie Babych
a man and a woman sitting at a table using a laptop: Postdoctoral researcher Niamh Caffrey, left and Dr. Sylvia Checkley with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine talk about a new study looking into dog bite statistics in Calgary from 2012-2017. Study results were released on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Gavin Young/Postmedia Postdoctoral researcher Niamh Caffrey, left and Dr. Sylvia Checkley with the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine talk about a new study looking into dog bite statistics in Calgary from 2012-2017. Study results were released on Wednesday, June 19, 2019. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Dog bite incidents occur primarily at home, and the majority of victims of those that result in serious injury are children and older adults, according to a study released by the University of Calgary on Wednesday.

Dr. Sylvia Checkley, an associate professor in the faculty of veterinary medicine, and her team analyzed local data between 2012 and 2017. They found severe dog bites are more common in children and youth, and adults over the age of 60, with most of the incidents happening in the family home.

“That idea, that it’s more common in children, is quite well known, but the older adults are quite unique — but it’s been hinted at before,” said Checkley.

Children are often the victims of dog bites because they may not understand how to read a dog’s behaviour or body language. However, it isn’t understood why seniors have become common victims of dog bites in Calgary.

The study was conducted as a collaboration between the faculty of veterinary science, experts in community health and municipal officials from the City of Calgary.

The city provided its extensive database of dog licensing and reported dog bites. Each time a dog bite is reported, the information is recorded, which includes a standardized rating scale to determine the severity of aggression for each incident.

“It ranks them from one to six. One and two are not actual bites, they’re earlier forms of aggression,” with six being the most severe, said Checkley.

Of the more than 2,000 incident reports collected by the city, only 50 per cent were on the lower end of the scale. Checkley said people are less likely to report an incident if no serious injury occurred.

Niamh Caffrey, the study’s lead author, said there are many factors involved in animal and human behaviour that couldn’t be analyzed from the city’s data, but the results show room for growth in preventing dog bites at home.

“The issues surrounding dog bites can lead to injury to humans and can have negative outcomes for the dogs themselves, such as re-homing and euthanasia. There are issues on both sides,” said Caffrey.

To understand how dog breeds related to the issue, the team created breed groups — based off the Canadian Kennel Club’s standards — breaking them into hounds, terriers, working, herding, sporting, non-sporting, toy and miscellaneous groups.

“We found no difference across the groups associated with severe bites, bites that would be three to six on our scale,” said Checkley.

Both researchers would like to see the study inspire better training and education strategies for dogs and owners to prevent severe bites from occurring.

sbabych@postmedia.com

Twitter: @BabychStephanie

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