Dog attacks on the rise as over 3,000 hospitalised in 10 years, new study shows

Dog Attacks On The Rise As Over 3,000 Hospitalised In 10 Years, New Study Shows
Over 1,100 children were hospitalised due to dog attacks from 2012 to 2021. Photo: iStock
Share this article

Sarah Slater

More than 3,000 people have been hospitalised over a 10-year period due to dog bites, with evidence showing such attacks are rising.

A new study on data from 2012 to 2021 found children suffered the most dog bites, with 1,121 children hospitalised following attacks.


The most common injuries from dog attacks were 2,397 open wounds, of which 751 were facial injuries, and 246 fractures.

Young people aged 0-14 were the most affected cohort, accounting for 3,158 of overall reported cases.

The joint study carried out by the Department of Agriculture, the National Health Intelligence Unit and University of Limerick warned that dog bites are “a major public health issue”.

The report was also critical of current legislation surrounding dog attacks, adding that the implementation of laws are “demonstrably not being sufficiently addressed”.


Over half (56.3 per cent) of people hurt in dog attack had injuries which required general anaesthetic, while 41.7 per cent had plastic surgery carried out due to their injuries.

The gender breakdown of attacks was almost even, with females representing 50.8 per cent of victims compared to 49.2 who were male.

Increasing incidents

The rate of dog attack increased significantly over the study period, from 5.6 per 100,000 of the population in 2012 to 8.7 per 100,000 in 2021.

The study, published in the latest edition of the Irish Medical Journal, also found there was a “significant increasing trend” in the average age of victims, rising from 29.1 years in 2012 to 35.2 years in 2021.


Following a number of high profile dog attacks on children and livestock last year, the Government established the Working Group on the Control of Dogs, tasked with making policy recommendations to improve dog control and reduce attacks. However, there is limited information on dog bites in the State due to the lack of a comprehensive reporting system.

The study found Dublin had the highest number of reported dog bites over the period examined, with 727 cases, followed by Cork (406) and Galway (193).

The counties with the lowest number of cases were Longford (24), Leitrim (26) and Kilkenny (38).

“Our results highlight the need for policy interventions to specifically consider ways to address this risk, particularly among children,” the report authors said.


They also noted the 15 recommendations put forward by the working group, including: “Reviewing and updating the 1986 Control of Dogs Act, increasing the number of dog wardens, carrying out a responsible dog ownership public awareness campaign and promoting greater cooperation between agencies responsible for enforcement of the legislation.”

“They also provide a baseline against which any changes in the incidence of dog bites requiring hospitalisation in future years can be measured, which could be one of the indices by which the effectiveness of new policy interventions could be evaluated,” the researchers said.

The report concluded that “the actual burden of dog bites is undoubtedly greater than that estimated from hospital discharge records”, adding that their “findings emphasise the importance of improving dog control legislation and enforcement and of developing effective related risk-reduction policies in Ireland to protect the public”.

Read More

Message submitting... Thank you for waiting.

Want us to email you top stories each lunch time?

Download our Apps
© 2024, developed by Square1 and powered by