Rise in 'dog bite' hospital admissions

Dogs Image copyright PA
Image caption Dog "bites and strikes" accounted for two-thirds of all hospital admissions due to animal attacks, figures show

The number of people taken to hospital after dog attacks has risen by 76% in the past decade, new figures show.

Between March 2014 and February this year, 7,227 people needed medical attention after being "bitten or struck" by a dog - up from 4,110 in the corresponding period ten years ago.

Young children were the most commonly affected, the Heath and Social Care Information Centre statistics showed.

Charity Dogs Trust said the statistics were "deeply concerning".

Admission rates for other types of animal attacks - including injuries caused by rats, cats, horses and foxes - are also up 76% compared to ten years ago.

The increase far outstripped the rise in total hospital admissions for that period, which went up 25% from 12.6 million to 15.8 million a year, the report said.

Traumatic injuries

Admissions due to dog bites between March 2014 and February 2015 were generally higher in summer months and lower in winter.

Rates were highest in urban areas (81%), and "between two and three times as high for the 10% most deprived areas", the report said.

Dog bites and strikes accounted for over two-thirds of admissions for mammal bites and strikes, with the highest rates in Merseyside, Durham, Darlington and Tees, and Thames Valley.

The most commonly affected were children under the age of nine, with 1,159 admitted to hospital.

"The most common injuries from dogs were open wounds of wrists, hands, head and forearm," the report said.

"For other mammals the main injuries were also open wounds to the wrist and hand, however there were also more diagnoses of cellulitis (infection of the deeper layers of the skin and the underlying tissue) and more leg fractures."

The statistics showed that 123 people were given a primary diagnosis of "traumatic amputation of wrist and hand" - including one child.

At least 21 people, including 13 children, have died in England and Wales in the past 10 years from dog attacks.

'Ultimate price'

Four-year-old Lexi Branson died in 2013 after being attacked at home in Mountsorrel, Leicestershire, by the family's Aylestone bulldog-type breed.

In October 2014, six-month-old Molly-Mae Wotherspoon died after being mauled by her family's American pit bull terrier at her mother's home in Daventry.

The coroner at her inquest said her family had "paid the ultimate price" for owning an animal banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Image copyright HO via police
Image caption An inquest into the death of Lexi Branson heard the dog which attacked her showed no prior signs of aggression

In May last year the Dangerous Dogs Act was updated to bring in new longer maximum prison sentences for dog owners, including raising the maximum from two to 14 years for a fatal attack and five for one causing injury. There is also a three-year maximum sentence for allowing your dog to attack an assistance dog.

Trevor Cooper, Dogs Trust law specialist, said: "It is especially worrying to learn that the number of hospital admissions for dog-related injuries is highest among the 0-9 age group.

"Dogs Trust remains frustrated that legislation focusing on issues around dangerous dogs and dog attacks remains ineffective at preventing these incidents happening in the first place. It is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure their dogs are properly trained and socialised, and Dogs Trust advises that young children should never be left alone with a dog."

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