The experience of dog bites: a survey of veterinary science and veterinary nursing students

N Z Vet J. 2006 Jun;54(3):141-6. doi: 10.1080/00480169.2006.36626.


Aim: To investigate the circumstances of dogs biting people in New Zealand.

Methods: Veterinary science and veterinary nursing students enrolled at Massey University in 2003 completed a questionnaire detailing their lifetime experience of dog bites and their opinions of dog control legislation.

Results: The response rate was 100%. There were 228 completed responses to the survey, and 87 (38%) respondents had been bitten by a dog. Most bites caused minor injury, but 17 (20%) required medical attention. Male respondents were more likely to have been bitten. The highest proportion of respondents (27; 31%) had been bitten while between 6 and 10 years of age, and the hand was the part of the body most often injured. Eighteen (21%) bites involved a stranger's dog, but most bites were by a dog known to the victim. Respondents from rural areas were three times more likely to have been bitten than city dwellers. The victim's home was the place where most (31; 36%) bites occurred. Male dogs were responsible for a larger proportion of bites (38; 44%) than females (24; 28%); respondents were unsure about the sex of the remainder of the dogs (25; 29%) that bit them. Protecting the home, play, accidents, rough handling and pain were identified as the common reasons for dogs to bite. Most (46; 52%) respondents did not believe legislation could have prevented their bite. Only four (5%) bites were reported to authorities.

Conclusion: Rural dwellers, people with more experience of dogs, children <11 years of age, and male respondents were bitten by dogs most often. Only legislation relating to the fencing of dog owners' properties may have prevented a reasonable proportion (25; 29%) of the bites reported here.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings / complications
  • Bites and Stings / epidemiology*
  • Breeding
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dogs*
  • Facial Injuries / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hand Injuries / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Risk
  • Rural Population / statistics & numerical data
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / etiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology