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Dog Bite Statistics in the United States and Jamaica
A binational study revealed several important child, dog, and home environment factors that contribute to dog bite occurrence in both Jamaica and the United States.
When compared with adults, children are over-represented for hospitalization and death due to dog bites. Most bites take place in the child’s home and are inflicted by the family dog.
Veterinary researchers from the Unites States and Ireland recently performed a retrospective study comparing risk factors for dog bites to children in San Francisco and Kingston, Jamaica.
Clients at 8 veterinary clinics in Kingston, Jamaica and 3 clinics in San Francisco, California were recruited voluntarily for the study. Respondents were eligible if their household included at least 1 dog and 1 child aged 5 to 15 years. In households with multiple dogs and/or children, the survey focused only on the first individual in alphabetical order.
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Participants were asked whether the dog had bitten the child within the past 2 years and whether incidents occurred during play or caused injury. If multiple incidents had occurred, focus was given only to the first occurrence.
The investigators then used responses to examine potential risk factors for dog bites based on child, dog, and home characteristics. Variables that were associated with a 25% or greater comparative increase in incidence of dog bites were considered most significant.
A total of 236 and 61 child-dog pairs were analyzed from Kingston and San Francisco, respectively. The incidence of dog bite to a child in each city was approximately 10% over a 2-year period. Participants in Kingston reported more children and dogs per household, as well as younger dogs that were acquired at an earlier age, compared with respondents from San Francisco. Also, respondents in Kingston were more likely than those in San Francisco to acquire a dog for protection than for companionship.
Regression analysis revealed that boys were more likely than girls to receive a dog bite, and the likelihood of being bitten was inversely related to child age. Bites also occurred more frequently in homes with fewer children and/or dogs, as well as those without a yard, compared with other homes.
Dogs possessing any of the following characteristics had an increased incidence of bites:
- Intact males and females
- Small breeds (Kingston only)
- Those acquired at a relatively young age
- Those acquired for companionship rather than protection
- Those sleeping in a family member’s bedroom
Dogs housed primarily indoors were more likely to bite than were dogs housed primarily or exclusively outdoors. Researchers also found that dogs that were confined at least part of the day had an increased risk of biting compared with other dogs. Dogs that roamed freely were also more likely to bite a child than were other dogs.
Dogs with sight or hearing deficits and those exhibiting avoidance behavior toward the child were no more likely to bite than were other dogs.
Dr. Stilwell received her DVM from Auburn University, followed by a MS in fisheries and aquatic sciences and a PhD in veterinary medical sciences from the University of Florida. She provides freelance medical writing and aquatic veterinary consulting services through her business, Seastar Communications and Consulting.