Dog attacks trigger calls for new prevention measures

A quarter of the victims of canine attacks are the dog owners themselves Keystone

A new study by the Federal Veterinary Office is calling for new measures to prevent dog attacks.

This content was published on August 31, 2002 - 11:29

The latest figures show that around 13,000 people are bitten by their "best friends" every year, a third of them are children.

Public concerns about dangerous dogs, particularly breeds such as Pitbulls and Rottweilers, prompted the study by Federal Veterinary Office, which was released this week.

The findings show that the most frequent victims of dog attacks are children, who account for one third of the 13,000 victims each year. The study, which analysed 667 cases, also found that children mostly receive bites to the head, whereas adults typically suffer injuries to their arms, legs and hands.

According to the study, most of the victims of dog bites are either the pet's owners (24 per cent) or are in regular contact with the animal.

Fighting dogs

Significantly, the study showed that so-called fighting dogs are no more of a public menace than other canines.

Dr Ursula Horisberger of Bern University, who led the study, said these dogs caused only ten per cent of the injuries in Switzerland.

"There are dogs that have solely been bred in order to fight against other dogs or even people," she said. "But if we want to reduce dog biting injuries and introduce prevention measures, these dogs are not really relevant."

Owners to blame

Horisberger says it is mainly the dog owners who are responsible for attacks. She urged the government to introduce new prevention measures, including the registration of all dogs, controls on dog breeding, and the strict licensing of dog breeders and traders.

Until now no precise figures on Switzerland's dog population had been available. The study shows that 490,000 dogs registered in Switzerland and about 25 per cent of those are pedigree animals.

Horisberger said the most popular breed in Switzerland was the German shepherd, closely followed by Labradors and Golden Retrievers.

Most aggressive breed

Even though no exact figures of the most dangerous dogs are available, Horisberger found that German shepherds and Rottweilers are the most aggressive breeds.

"In principle all dogs can bite," Horisberger told swissinfo. "However, it's the most commonly owned dogs that are most likely to attack and our figures show that the most aggressive breeds are the Rottweilers and German shepherds," she added.

Horisberger also found that male dogs were three times more likely to attack than females.

The Federal Veterinary Office plans to publish leaflets for dog owners, children and parents as well as dog breeders in order to make the population more aware of the danger of canine attacks.

swissinfo

Key facts

Fifteen per cent of Swiss own a dog.
Every year about 13,000 people are bitten.
A third of the victims are children.
Twenty-four per cent of people are bitten by their own dog.
In 2001, 137 postal workers were bitten.

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In brief

Dogs may be men's best friends but they have increasingly become a menace, particularly to children. A new study shows that one third of the victims of canine attacks are children and nearly a quarter is attacked by their own pet.

In Switzerland around 13,000 people are treated for dog biting injuries each year.

The study conducted by the Federal Veterinary Office calls for new preventive measures and gives recommendations of how to reduce the number of incidents.

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