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10 Surprising Dog Bite Statistics in the UK (2024 Update)

Kerry-Ann Kerr Profile Picture

By Kerry-Ann Kerr

Dog Bite in the UK Statistics

Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.

There has been a rise in dog ownership in the UK since the pandemic in 2020, with 3.2 million households welcoming in a new pet. There are around 12 million dogs in the UK right now, showing how much the UK loves its dogs. They make excellent companions and friends, but the relationship between humans and dogs can become dangerous if they aren’t treated the way they should be.

Dog bite attacks are on the rise, and while there are no concrete answers for why that is, there are some theories. We will explore these theories and look into some of the statistics behind dog bites in the UK. We have separated these statistics into these categories:

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The 10 Surprising Dog Bite Statistics in the UK

  1. 11 people died from dog bites between January 2022 & 2023
  2. In the case of children, 75% of dog bites are to the head
  3. In England & Wales, 7,443 people were admitted to hospitals for dog bites between 2020–2021
  4. Between 2001 & 2021, 59% of dog bite fatalities in England & Wales were men
  5. Typically, there are three fatalities a year from dog attacks, but in 2022 there were 10, & the rise has been linked to the pandemic
  6. Four breeds of dogs are banned in the UK because of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991
  7. With a 26% rise in attacks since the pandemic began in 2020, there have been calls to change the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991
  8. Every day, there are six dog attacks on postal workers across the UK
  9. A 2021 study of fatal dog attacks in Europe during 1995–2016 placed England fourth out of five countries for the number of human fatalities
  10. Of the dog attacks that took place last year, it’s thought that six involved a breed known as the American XL Bully
UK_DOG_BITE_FACTS_&_STATISTICS
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The Impact of Dog Bites on People & Hospitals

1. 11 people died from dog bites between January 2022 & 2023

(Independent and Wikipedia)

Out of these 11 people, four of them were children. They included a 3-month-old girl, a 17-month-old girl, a 2-year-old boy, and a 3-year-old boy.


2. In the case of children, 75% of dog bites are to the head

(Independent)

In the financial year 2017–2018, it cost the NHS a little less than £71 million to deal with the cost of dog bites, and thousands of survivors are known to suffer trauma long after the event has happened. Many children are left with emotional scars alongside their physical scars if they are lucky enough to survive the attack.

a woman with headache
Image Credit: Keira Burton, Pexels

3. In England, 7,443 people were admitted to hospitals for dog bites between 2020–2021

(NHS Digital)

Out of these 7,443 people, 2,925 needed an operation or reconstructive surgery to repair the damage left by the dog bite. Of all these people needing surgery, 380 were aged 0–4.


4. Between 2001 & 2021, 59% of dog bite fatalities in England & Wales were men

(medRxiv)

10% of the fatalities were under 5 years old, and 30% were over 75. Registered deaths were most common in the young and old. Between 1998 and 2018, hospital admissions in England due to dog bites or strikes have doubled, with males and young children being the most likely to be bitten.

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The Law & Pandemic Statistics

5. Typically, there are three fatalities a year from dog attacks, but in 2022 there were 10, & the rise has been linked to the pandemic

(Wikipedia and The Guardian)

During the lockdown, households bought 3.2 million pets. There was a worry that there would be some problems related to this surge in pet ownership. For example, supermarkets ran out of pet food. Another concern was that owners would be unable to meet their dog’s exercise needs because of the lockdown. This could result in dogs being frustrated, bored, and stressed. However, there is no data to back up this worry.


6. Four breeds of dogs are banned in the UK because of the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

(Purina)

This act was introduced after a series of dog attacks, including attacks on several children. This made it illegal to own a dog that is considered “dangerously out of control” in public spaces, which was updated to include private properties in 2014. The illegal breeds are the Japanese Tosa, Pit Bull Terrier, Fila Brasileiro, and the Dogo Argentino.

american pitbull terrier
Image Credit: Voltgroup, Shutterstock

7. With a 26% rise in attacks since the pandemic began in 2020, there have been calls to change the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991

(The Mirror)

In the West Midlands alone, since 2020, there has been a 50% rise in dog attacks. Four hundred twenty-eight dogs had been seized by the time the Mirror reported on it in October 2022. There were 686 dangerous dog attacks or incidents, which is up 422 compared to the same period in 2020. While some are calling for more breeds to be banned, the RSPCA believes the Dangerous Dogs Act should change and that banning certain breeds does nothing to reduce dog bites. Instead, the focus should be on “responsible ownership,” where owners must prove they have the skills and resources to look after a dog before being allowed one.

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Extra Dog Bite Statistics

Jack Russell puppy biting_Shutterstock_Haelen Haagen
Image Credit: Haelen Haagen, Shutterstock

8. Every day, there are six dog attacks on postal workers across the UK

(CWU and Royal Mail)

Dog owners should never open their door to a postal worker when their dog is around because dogs can be territorial. In 2021 and 2022, there were 1,700 reported dog attacks on postal workers in the UK.

Four hundred fifty dogs bite postal workers through the letterbox each year, and in the last 5 years, 1,000 postmen and women have had part of or a whole finger bitten off through a letterbox. A good way to avoid this risk is to secure a mailbox on the edge of your property.


9. A 2021 study of fatal dog attacks in Europe during 1995–2016 placed England as fourth out of five countries for the number of human fatalities

(Science Direct)

Hungary came in first on the list, and next was France, Romania, England, and Poland.


10. Of the dog attacks that took place last year, it’s thought that six involved a breed known as the American XL Bully

(The Guardian)

This muscular breed originated from the American Pit Bull Terrier, but there isn’t enough evidence yet to know if it’s a dangerous breed. Hospital records don’t include information on the dog breed, and there isn’t a way of knowing how many of these dogs are in the UK. However, experts say there is no evidence to suggest one breed is more dangerous than another. While a bigger breed can potentially do more damage, all dogs can bite.

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FAQ

Why Do Dogs Attack?

No one knows for sure, but there are many theories. This rise could be related to how owners are purchasing their pets. If they haven’t been socialized or come from a deplorable environment, they may have behavioral issues when they’re older. The internet makes it easier to source dogs, and the pandemic and high prices have led to unscrupulous breeders.

The Guardian reported that owners weren’t always meeting their dog’s exercise needs before the lockdown, and when they returned to the office, over half of UK dogs spent more than 5 hours alone at home every day. This could lead to frustration and boredom, which can then lead to unwanted behavior.

How to Avoid Dog Aggression?

Dogs might also bite as a reaction when they’re feeling threatened or scared. This might be because they:

  • Think they’re being attacked
  • Have been startled
  • Are in pain and attempting to protect themselves
  • Are protecting a resource like food, a treat, or a toy

Children make sudden movements and unpredictable sounds that might startle a dog. They also might not understand the importance of avoiding a dog’s food or toys, and they can cause pain by pulling a dog’s ears, tail, or fur. They are often at eye level with a dog, which dogs can see as a threat. And lastly, they can be more seriously injured because they are smaller, so they show up on hospital statistics more often.

You can prevent most dog bites by putting in the proper training with your dog and also teaching your child what appropriate behavior around dogs is. Dogs will show signs they are feeling stressed by:

  • Avoiding eye contact
  • Growling
  • Licking their lips
  • Drawing their lips back
  • A rigid stance
  • Yawning
black and white dog growling
Image Credit: monicore, Pixabay

Which Breeds Are Most Likely to Bite?

An American study in 2019 named these breeds as having the highest percentage of bites:

Studies like this are difficult to interpret in terms of the UK. First of all, the largest percentage of bites were by unknown breeds, which tells us very little, except victims could not identify the dog that bit them. Second, Pit Bulls are not bred in the UK; they are more of a “type” which can be identified under specific characteristics. They are also banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

There are also some smaller breeds in this study that you might not expect to be there, like Terriers or Shih Tzus. The point is, knowing the breeds with the highest percentage of biting doesn’t help. The RSPCA pointed out that the Dangerous Dogs Act doesn’t do very much in practice because the fact is, all dogs can bite. The focus, instead, should be on training, socialization, and our behavior and the behavior of our children around dogs.

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Conclusion

With a 26% rise in dog bites since the pandemic, it’s clear why people are so concerned and calling for changes to be implemented to the Dangerous Dog Act. However, the argument isn’t as simple as banning more breeds. There is an argument to be made that it is too easy to get a dog. Training and socialization are so necessary for any breed, and if an owner can’t fulfill these needs, they could raise a potentially dangerous dog that could hurt or kill another person.


Featured Image Credit: ANURAK PONGPATIMET, Shutterstock

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