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THE UK dog population is estimated to be 8.5 million, making dogs the most popular pet, sharing the lives of 24 per cent of families in the UK (PFMA 2015). However, decades of dog bite research indicate an important downside to this friendship; dogs are responsible for the majority of animal bites to people, leading to physical and psychological trauma or even fatalities.
The incidence of dog bites is estimated to be around 1.5 per cent of the population with children being twice as much at risk compared to other age groups (Gilchrist and others 2008). According to hospital data, most dog bites happen in familiar surroundings involving a familiar dog and a child victim. The known number of dog bites probably reflects only the tip of the iceberg since accurate reporting is lacking (Bernardo and others 2002).
However, dogs can bite more than people. Research by Brooks and others (2010) and recently by Moxon and others (2016) address a topic rarely mentioned in dog bite research, namely attacks on working guide dogs for the blind and the visually impaired. In a paper summarised on p 367 in this issue of Veterinary Record, Moxon and others (2016) report 629 dog bite attacks over a 56 month period …