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Number of dog attack victims soars

Published 28/05/2015

American pit bull terriers are banned in the UK
American pit bull terriers are banned in the UK

The number of people taken to hospital after dog attacks has soared by 76% in the past decade, new figures show.

The number of people admitted to hospital after being bitten or struck in the year between March 2014 and February was 7,227, up from 4,110 in the corresponding period ten years ago, according to Heath and Social Care Information Centre statistics.

The most commonly affected age group was children aged under nine, with 1,159 admitted to hospital, according to the HSCIC's latest Hospital Episode Statistics release.

The increase in admission rates was mirrored by a 76% rise in the admission rate for bites and strikes by other animals over a ten-year period when total hospital admissions rose 25% from 12.6 million to 15.8 million, HSCIC said.

The HSCIC noted: "Throughout this period the proportion of admissions which had any external cause recorded stayed relatively stable around 8%, so the increase in bite admission rates cannot simply be attributed to an increase in recording external causes.

"Admissions due to dog bites were generally higher in summer months and lower in winter, though there was a minor peak in December 2013. This pattern is not as pronounced for admissions due to other mammal bites.

"The most common injuries from dogs were open wounds of wrists, hands, head and forearm. For other mammals the main injuries were also open wounds to the wrist and hand, however there were also more diagnoses of cellulitis (infection of the deeper layers of the skin and the underlying tissue) and more leg fractures."

More boys than girls under nine were admitted but in all other age groups more women than men were affected, it noted.

At least 21 people, including 13 children, have died in England and Wales in the past 10 years from dog attacks.

Six-month-old Molly-Mae Wotherspoon died in October after being mauled by her family's American pit bull terrier at her mother's home in Daventry.

The coroner at her inquest said her family had "paid the ultimate price" for owning an animal banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

Ava-Jayne Corless died aged just 11 months old in February last year when she was attacked by a pit bull terrier while she was asleep in bed in Blackburn, Lancashire.

In December 2013, pregnant mother-of-four Emma Bennett, 27, died after she was attacked by two pit bull-type dogs at her home in Leeds, North Yorkshire.

In May last year the Dangerous Dogs Act was updated to ring in new longer maximum prison sentences for dog owners, including raising the maximum from two to 14 years for a fatal attack and five for one causing injury. There is also a three-year maximum sentence for allowing your dog to attack an assistance dog.

Trevor Cooper, the Dogs Trust's law specialist, said the statistics were "deeply concerning".

He said: "It is especially worrying to learn that the number of hospital admissions for dog related injuries is highest among the 0-9 age group.

"Dogs Trust remains frustrated that legislation focusing on issues around dangerous dogs and dog attacks remains ineffective at preventing these incidents happening in the first place. It is the responsibility of dog owners to ensure their dogs are properly trained and socialised and Dogs Trust advises that young children should never be left alone with a dog."

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