Background: The primary objective of this study was to investigate if differences in dog bite characteristics exist amongst legislated and non-legislated dog breeds listed under breed-specific legislation in Ireland (age when bitten, anatomical bite locations, triggers for biting, victim's relationship with the dog, geographical location and owner presence, history of aggression, reporting bite incident to authorities, medical treatment required following the bite, and type of bite inflicted). A second objective of the current study was to investigate dog control officer's enforcement and perceptions of current legislation. Data for statistical analyses were collated through a nationally advertised survey, with Pearson Chi-square and Fisher's Exact Test statistical methods employed for analyses. A total of 140 incident surveys were assessed comprising of non-legislated (n = 100) and legislated (n = 40) dog bite incidents.
Results: Legislated breeds were significantly more likely to be perceived as aggressive and less fearful as triggers for biting compared to non-legislated breeds (P = 0.003). Non-legislated breeds were more likely to inflict a bite with the owner present on own property and on a business premises compared to legislated breeds (P = 0.036). Non-legislated breeds were more likely to not be reported to the authorities before (P = 0.009), and after (P = 0.032) the bite occurred compared to legislated breeds. There were no significant differences observed between both groups for; age when the victim was bitten, bite location, relationship with the dog, history of aggression, outcome for the dog, if the dog bit again, and seeing a professional trainer or behaviourist. No significant difference was observed between both legislated and non-legislated groups for medical treatment required following the bite, and the type of bite inflicted.
Conclusion: The present study results did not observe evidence of any differences between legislated and non-legislated for both the medical treatment to victims required following the bite, and the type of bite inflicted. The significant differences in bites being reported to authorities, perceived triggers for biting, and biting locations suggests distinctly differing perceptions relating to risk between legislated and non-legislated dog breeds. Further consequences relating to the introduction of breed-specific legislation in Ireland are discussed.
Keywords: Bite; Bite severity; Breed-specific legislation; Dog bite reporting; Dog breed; Medical treatment; Public policy.