Social and locality variations in dog bites and strikes in Scotland

Lead Research Organisation: University of Stirling
Department Name: Applied Social Science


Social and locality variations in dog bites and strikes in Scotland: Analysis of linked by-product datasets and analysis of variations in public opinion

Research has found numerous psychological and physical benefits linked to human-dog interactions (Wells 2007). However, with an estimated 8.5 million pet dogs across the UK (, it is not surprising that these interactions may not always be positive. The Health and Social Care Information System (HSCIC) reported in 2015 that rates of hospital admissions for dog bites or strikes in England over the past 10 years had increased by 76% - from 4,110 admissions in 2005-2006 to 7,227 in 2014-2015 (HSCIC 2015). Moreover, social inequalities are embedded in these patterns - for England and Wales, admission rates for dog bites and strikes were highest in young children (0-9yrs), and admissions were nearly three times more likely for those living in the most deprived compared to the least deprived areas - a pattern not observed in rates of admissions for other animal bites (HSCIC 2014; 2015). Previous studies have shown similar patterns in Wales (Humphreys et al. 2014), Canada (Raghavan et al. 2014) and the U.S (Shuler et al. 2008). It is plausible that similar patterns exist in Scotland, and several non-academic reports based upon Freedom of Information requests have suggested this (e.g. ; Whilst there is a public interest in these figures in Scotland, thus far there has been no rigorous empirical investigation into social inequalities in dog related injuries. Through an innovative and ambitious analysis of linked by-product data and supplementary primary data, this study will evaluate social differences in the experience of (and opinion about) dog bites and strikes in Scotland.

Contribution to research on social policy
The issues of 'dangerous dogs' and responsible dog ownership are current in the minds of policymakers (e.g. Defra 2013; RSPCA Wales 2016; Scottish Government 2014), yet dog bite incidents continue to rise (HSCIC 2015). Incidences of dog bites can involve a number of agencies through local and national government, including health care, police and court systems, animal control and in some cases child welfare services. As such, the burden of responsibility to reduce this risk and protect vulnerable populations is unclear, yet measures of prevention yield benefits for all. A multi-agency approach under the guidance of informed social policy for targeting areas or populations where interventions are most needed could lead to a more effective method for risk reduction. However, existing policy initiative and legislation is not designed to recognise or respond to social patterns in dog ownership or in problems related to dog ownership. As such, if deprivation does play a key role in the risks associated with dog bites or attacks in Scotland, the implications of these findings for policy makers and the potential for the targeting of interventions to reduce this risk will need to be explored.

Questions to be addressed include:
-Are hospital admission rates of dog bites in Scotland higher for areas with higher levels of deprivation?
-What area or individual characteristics are associated with rates of hospital admissions for dog-related injuries?
-Can microchipping data be used to estimate dog populations, are these related to other area characteristics, and does controlling for local dog populations change the relationship with deprivation?
-What is the relationship between public opinion/anxiety, and actual patterns and trends related to dog bites and strikes?
-What are the implications for health and social care systems of social and locality variations in dog bites and strikes, and how can care systems be improved?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000681/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
1939486 Studentship ES/P000681/1 30/09/2017 29/06/2022