I spend a fair amount of time on this blog writing about dog bites, and how breed-specific legislation is not the solution to lowering them. And unfortunately there still some who don't want to dive any deeper than "breed" when it comes to bites.
Fortunately, there are other researchers who are doing deep dives to get us more information about bites and how to prevent them. And this study, entitled "Dog Bite Prevention: An Assessment of Child Knowledge" is a good first step.
The report uses a mix of older and newer data (I have some issues with a few of the numbers, but the overall point is still right)-- but essentially notes a lot of information that points to children, ages 5-9, being at far more risk than of being bitten by a dog that most other Americans.
These bites, which often occur to the head, face and neck sometimes have long-lasting injuries -- some of which are phyisical, and many emotional. According to information they got from the Amerian Society of Plastic Surgeons, there were more than 30,000 reconstructive procedures performed for dog bite injuries in 2009 - -and roughly 16% of all bite cases end up infected. On study (from the United National Children's Fund Alliance for Safe Children) says that dog bites are the #2 cause for children to have to seek medical attention.
In spite of this, the authors note that dog bite prevention education is often ignored -- and hus, they wanted to get a read on how big the gap is in dog bite prevention education. And it's pretty big.
The study measured statements made by both parents and children (in separate interviews). It was a convenience sample, so it may or may not be truly representative. Of the sample of children ages 5-15, 11% of the children were at the hospital for a current dog bite. 23% were reported to have ever been bitten by a dog. Previous or urrent dog ownership was reported by 72% of the parents/guardians.
A test on some basic dog safety information (which could be subjective, but I think most trainers would agree with most of the study questions/answers), only 57% of the children passed the very basic test.
Significant indicators of passing the test were:
-- Child age, with older children performing better -- children gained .25 in score for every year older they were
-- Parental age -- with older parent having their children perform better
-- Children with non-white parents tended to perform more poorly (children with white parents performed just under a 1 point higher on the test than children with non-white parents.
Among the parents, only 27% said their child had ever recieved proior dog bite prevention education and 88% agreed that they and their children would benefit from this type of education. But here is the rub, only 26% said they knew where to go to receive dog bite prevention education -- and most thought the right place to receive this was at the pediatrician's office and the Emergency Department.
No significant relationship in passing came from other sociodemographic information or child's gender, level of parental education, household income, dog ownership or previous dog bites in the family.
I don't think most of the results are terribly surprising -- and it seems logical that better understanding of dog bite prevention techniques would cause children to act more safely in their interactions with dogs. While current dog owners would seem to be a recipe for better education, these children are also a bit more at risk because a significant percentage of dog bites happen in the home.
I think maybe the biggest aha here is that there is a huge need for dog bite education in children -- and such information would likely decrease dog bites to children in these age groups. It is also interesting the huge lack of awareness of even where to find good dog bite prevention information -- which provides a huge opportunity for the animal welfare, veterinary and medical communities to get together to create good information packets available at pediatricians offices (something recommended a decade ago by the AVMA). It is also exciting to see that so many parents are interested in getting dog bite education for their children -- and pretty telling how important this is for younger children.
While dogs remain safe additions to our families, many people simply lack some basic knowledge that would help them minimize risks. Education can be a key component to helping bridge this gap....but takes diving a little deeper into the information about canine behavior and human interactions with dogs.
Update: You can read the entire study here.