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Open Access Research article

An investigation into the prevalence of dog bites to primary school children in Trinidad

Karla Georges* and Abiodun Adesiyun

Author Affiliations

School of Veterinary Medicine, Faculty of Medical Sciences, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus, EWMSC, Trinidad and Tobago

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BMC Public Health 2008, 8:85  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-8-85

Published: 5 March 2008

Abstract

Background

To estimate the prevalence of dog bites to primary school children between the ages of 8–12 years using a semi-structured interview process. With the increase in the pet population and popularity of dangerous breeds of dog and a high stray dog population combined with a dearth of information on the risk of dog attacks to children in Trinidad, a semi-structured interview process was used to determine risk factors associated with dog attacks.

Methods

A questionnaire survey of 1109 primary school children between the ages of 8–12 years was conducted in Trinidad from November 2002 to September 2003. The survey was conducted to determine the risk factors such as age, gender, size of dog and relationship of dog and victim, in dog bite incidents. The chi-square statistic and odds ratios were used to estimate risk factors for a bite incident.

Results

Twenty-eight percent of children were bitten at least once by a dog. Gender (male) and owning a dog were statistically significant risk factors (p = 0.003 and 0.008 respectively, χ2 df, 95% confidence). Most attacks occurred outside of the home (58.0%) followed by the victims' home (42.0%) and were by a dog known but not owned (54.6%) by the victim. Many victims (33.0%) were bitten without having any interaction with the dog and the majority (61.9%) of victims did not receive professional medical assistance. Overall, the lower leg or foot was most often injured (39.3%).

Conclusion

A public educational campaign is needed on responsible pet ownership. In addition, children must be taught effective ways of avoiding attacks or reducing injury in the event of a dog attack. The Dangerous dogs Act 2000 must be proclaimed in parliament by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago to exert more pressure on pet owners to safeguard the public from the menace of dog attacks.