Recently published research conducted by TILES PhD student, Mithun Rajshekar, reveals an increase in treatments for dog bites in Australian hospitals. The co-author Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard says the published report is likely to underestimate the true extent of the dog bites injuries because they do not take into account private hospital presentations, community health centres and GP clinics.
According to the published research, the rise in treatments of dog bites points to several factors that may have contributed to the overall increase in rates during the study period.
First, there has been an increase in the number of households with dogs. It is estimated that about 39% of Australian households now own a dog. The Australian Bureau of Statistics online resources indicate that married couples with dependants were most likely to have pets, with 49% of those households owning a dog. This heightened exposure to dogs as a result of increase in households with dogs may have contributed to the increase in rates over time.
The research indicates the high incidence and incidence density for 0–4 and 5–9 year olds are consistent with findings of previous national and jurisdictional reports. Lead author Dr Mithun Rajshekar says children are considered to be at a greater risk of dog bites due to their inexperienced handling of animals, their innate curiosity, and their inability to defend themselves against an animal attack due to their small stature.
The research paper was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health. (Rajshekar, M., Blizzard, L., Julian, R., Williams, A.-M., Tennant, M., Forrest, A., Walsh, L. J. and Wilson, G. (2017), The incidence of public sector hospitalisations due to dog bites in Australia 2001–2013. doi:10.1111/1753-6405.12630
The published research prompted interest from major national media news and broadcasting agencies such as:
Thousands of Australians treated in hospital for dog bites each year - Lucie van den Berg, Herald Sun, 16 July 2017
Nation dogged by more attacks - Rose Brennan, Daily Telegraph, Sydney, 17 July 2017
Assoc Prof Leigh Blizzard in conversation with Wendy Harmer, 'Mornings with Wendy Harmer’ program on ABC Radio, Sydney, 17 July 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/radio/sydney/programs/mornings/mornings/8696058
About the Authors
Dr Mithun Rajshekar is a PhD Candidate in TILES and the Menzies Institute for Medical Research Tasmania. His postgraduate research focuses on the 'Application of 3D Scanning Technology in Forensic Investigation of Bite-marks’.
Associate Professor Leigh Blizzard is the senior biostatistician at the Menzies Institute for Medical Research Tasmania, University of Tasmania.
Associate Professor Roberta Julian is the founding Director of the Tasmanian Institute of Law Enforcement Studies (TILES).
Associate Professor Anne-Marie Williams is a forensic anthropologist who teaches in the School of Medicine, University of Tasmania.
Professor Marc Tennant is the Director (and Founder) of the International Research Collaborative - Oral Health and Equity at the University of Western Australia.
Associate Professor Alex Forrest is a forensic odontologist from the School of Natural Sciences Griffith University, Queensland.
Professor Laurence J Walsh is from the School of Dentistry, University of Queensland.
Dr Gary Wilson is from Advanced Animal Dentistry, Queensland.