THE KENNEL Club is calling for greater awareness about child safety around dogs following the release of figures showing the increase in bite injuries to under tens.
The number of dog bite victims admitted to hospital has risen by almost a third in four years, NHS figures show, and children under the age of ten are more likely than any other age group to suffer severe injuries and require plastic surgery.
The KC says that education is the answer, and the summer holidays are the perfect time to teach children safe behaviour.
More than 1,000 children under ten were admitted following attacks by dogs last year and almost half required plastic surgery. It is thought the rise in status dogs trained for fighting by teenage gangs may be to blame.
There were almost 6,450 hospital admissions due to bites and attacks in the year to April 2012, up from 4,611 four years earlier. Around one in six hospital admissions following an attack by a dog involved a child under ten.
But the figures, released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), could represent just the tip of the iceberg, HSCIC say, as the most serious injuries which required the patient to a hospital bed requiring treatment, and possibly surgery, have been included. Those treated in accident and emergency and sent home are not included.
But a spokesman for the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle said the scale of the rise could be explained partly by more aggressive treatments for dog bites. In the past, many were treated in accident and emergency departments, whereas it has become much more common for victims to be admitted to hospital to enable the wound to be cleaned surgery to reduce the risk of infection.
The figures also show that the number of hospital admissions for men has stayed constant between the ages of ten and 45, and has then decreased with increasing age. Women’s admission rates are lower between the ages of ten and 45 and then become similar to men's at older ages.
Hospital admissions after bites were highest in the North East and North West and lowest in London and South East coast regions.
This week the KC urged people to teach children how to be safe around dogs using the club’s Safe and Sound scheme which educates children about behaviour, taking them through a number of scenarios. It asks them what they would do in each – such as if a dog is in a child’s way and eating its dinner what the child would do. Here it is not unusual for children to think that moving the dog is a good idea; however, the game shows the possible negative reaction a child could get if they chose this option, and they are advised instead to wait for the dog to finish.
"We believe that better communication with children about appropriate behaviour around dogs could dramatically reduce these biting figures,” said KC spokesman Caroline Kisko. "So we are calling on all parents to ensure that their children know how to behave around dogs.
"Dogs are a big part of our lives and it is likely that every child will come across a dog at some point this year – at home, at a friend’s or just out on the street. During the summer holidays is a great time to sit down with your child and speak to them about dog safety, and using the tips and game available through the Safe and Sound Scheme is a great way to clearly illustrate to your children the best way for them to behave around dogs.”
The scheme is available from www.safetyarounddogs.org.uk/.