Australia is home to millions of dogs, so it isn’t surprising that some dog bites do occur. However, the statistics surrounding these dog bites can be surprising.
Sadly, the statistics on dog bites can vary from source to source. Not all dog bites are reported, for instance, which can skew the data. Furthermore, some agencies have underlying motivations that may skew what they report, as well. For instance, sometimes, all dog bites are counted (including dog-on-dog bites). Other times, only dog bites causing hospitalization are counted.
Below, we did our best to use the best statistical sources and indicate where they may be prone to inaccuracies.
Top 13 Surprising Australian Dog Bite Statistics
- Around 737 people were attacked by a dog in Victoria last quarter.
- 628 patients were admitted to Sydney Children’s Hospital during the 2010 to 2020 decade.
- 1,027 dog bites were reported in the first 3 months of 2022 in NSW alone.
- Bite rates are highest in children under 5.
- Rates have largely remained stable since the 2000s.
- Pitbulls top the charts at 10.3%.
- The “other” category is quite large at 42.7%.
- German Shepherds were surprisingly low at 4.3%.
- The head is by far the most common body area injured at 76.9%.
- Open wounds were the most common injury, however, fractures were surprisingly common.
- Hospitalization duration increased with victim age but the longest length of stay reported was 211 days.
- 69 canines were euthanized during the first few months of 2022 due to dog bites.
- At least 33 dog attacks have led to death since 1979.
Dog Bite Statistics in Numbers
1. Around 737 people were attacked by a dog in Victoria last quarter.
While we don’t have statistics for how many dog attacks there were country-wide, we do know that 737 people were attacked in Victoria in the last quarter of 2022. This does not account for dog-on-dog attacks, which numbered 1,126. Obviously, dogs attack each other or animals more than they attack humans. Only 193 of the human attacks were labeled as serious.
2. 628 patients were admitted to Sydney Children’s Hospital during the 2010 to 2020 decade.
Sydney’s Children’s Hospital is one of the main sources of statistics, as they treat many of the child dog bites. According to the hospital, there has been about one admission per week relating to dog bite injuries. The average age for these injuries is only 5 years old.
3. 1,027 dog bites were reported in the first 3 months of 2022 in NSW alone.
In total, about 1,027 dog bites were reported during the first 3 months of 2022 in the NSW area. This includes all dog bites, though, including those inflicted upon other animals. This number is likely to be much lower than the actual number, as well, since most dog bites are not reported. Minor bites are commonly not written down. This also skews the data towards more serious bites, making the average dog bite seem more dangerous than it actually is.
4. Bite rates are highest in children under 5.
The rates are highest for children under 5 years old. However, this is in terms of hospitalizations, only. It is likely that this information is a bit skewed, as children are often admitted “just in case.” Similar bites on adults may not warrant hospitalization, which causes them not to fall into this statistic.
The next highest group to be hospitalized was the elderly. Often, this group exhibited fractures that led to hospitalization.
5. Rates have largely remained stable since the 2000s.
Dog bite rates haven’t increased or decreased much over the last few decades—despite plenty of laws being put into place to prevent bites. It seems that many of the current laws aren’t effective, including breed-specific legislation. Likely, this is because most breed-specific legislation isn’t effective. Most dog bites are the result of how the dog is raised, though some breeds are more prone to poor temperaments when not socialized correctly. When one breed is banned, another one always seems to take its place.
6. Pitbulls top the charts at 10.3%.
Pitbulls are much more likely to bite according to our current statistics. However, these results are likely skewed. Studies have shown again and again that many dogs are misidentified as Pitbulls. The victim may claim that it was a Pitbull that bit them when it was really a different breed. Even those whose job it is to identify dogs (like workers at animal shelters) often don’t do so with much accuracy. For this reason, Pitbulls are likely often misrepresented.
7. The “other” category is quite large at 42.7%.
Likely, this category includes hybrid dogs. These dogs are likely to be a bit less predictable than other dogs, which may increase the odds of bites. However, it may also be that mixed breeds are less likely to be trained to the same extent as purebred dogs. Furthermore, mixed dogs are often less expensive, while purebred dogs can be more expensive. This may indicate the amount of money the respective owners can invest in training.
8. German Shepherds were surprisingly low at 4.3%.
German Shepherds are often considered aggressive dogs, and they do have guarding instincts. However, reports indicate that they are actually not the cause of many dog bites.
9. The head is by far the most common body area injured at 76.9%.
Some records indicate that bites to the head are much more likely than other bites. However, these statistics specifically indicated bites that resulted in hospitalizations. Therefore, it may be that head wounds are simply more likely to require hospitalization. Bites to the extremities are likely less reported, as they tend to be less serious.
10. Open wounds were the most common injury, however, fractures were surprisingly common.
We were very surprised to find that fractures made up about 4% of bites which resulted in hospitalization. The longest hospital stay was due to a fractured femur (as well as other injuries). It seems that seniors are more likely to get fractures due to bites, which may indicate that an underlying illness is the root cause of the fracture.
11. Hospitalization duration increased with victim age and the longest length of stay reported was 211 days.
Hospitalization periods lengthened as the victim became older. Likely, this is because children are often admitted for less serious bites “just in case.” On the other hand, seniors are most likely to stay for long periods. They are also the most likely to get a fracture due to the bite.
12. 69 canines were euthanized during the first few months of 2022 due to dog bites.
Canines are not often euthanized for bites. Out of over 700 bites at the beginning of 2022, only 69 canines were euthanized (this doesn’t include canines that were surrendered by their owner). Therefore, it seems that most dogs are not considered dangerous after the bite occurs.
13. At least 33 dog attacks have led to death since 1979.
Most attacks resulting in death were on small children or the elderly. Usually, multiple dogs were involved. These cases were sometimes by strange dogs unknown to the victim. However, mauling committed by a group of family pets was surprisingly common.
Frequently Asked Questions About Australian Dog Bites
What happens if a dog bites someone in Australia?
There are many potential consequences if your dog bites someone while living in Australia. You could face thousands of dollars in fines, and your dog may be euthanized. Often, you’ll have to pay compensation for the damages caused by your dog. The extent of the punishment and fines will typically be decided based on the severity of the attack and your dog’s previous behavior.
Can you sue for a dog bite in Australia?
Sometimes, you can sue over a dog bite in Australia. However, the exact procedure for this varies. Often, you have to prove that the owner was at fault in some way—not just that their dog bit you. If the owner encouraged the dog or did nothing to stop the bite, this may be proof enough. Previous violence on the dog’s part that the owner did not compensate for may also count.
Does a dog get put down if it bites someone?
No, not necessarily. The dog would only get put down if the attack was particularly bad, or if the dog was a repeat offender. The dog must be considered likely to bite again in the future and a single bite doesn’t necessarily indicate that. Furthermore, if the owner shows that he or she will invest in training to prevent the attack from happening in the future, the dog has a better chance of not being euthanized.
What to do if a dog bites you and breaks the skin?
If you suffer from a dog bite, you should seek medical attention—even if it isn’t particularly bad. Dog bites are particularly prone to infection. A dog’s mouth is a relatively dirty place, which means that the chance of bacteria being introduced to the wound is high. Furthermore, puncture wounds are quite deep and take longer to heal. Therefore, even if you don’t need stitches, you will need antibiotics and the wound cleaned.
If you do not know the dog, you will need a rabies vaccination. However, these aren’t always recommended for bites by known dogs who are vaccinated themselves.
Do police investigate dog bites?
It depends. If you are bitten by your own dog, no one is going to come knocking on your door—even if you seek medical attention. Police only investigate bites reported to them, which typically occur when a dog bites someone who isn’t their owner. Police may also investigate bites on minors to ensure they are safe within their home. Bites leading to hospitalizations may also be reported, even if the dog is yours.
Dog bites have occurred at about the same rate for the last few decades in Australia. Not all bites are reported. Even if a dog owner receives medical care, the bite isn’t always reported to any legal body. Therefore, most of the statistics we have on bites come from hospitalizations. As you might imagine, a bite that leads to hospitalization is likely worse than your average dog bite. Therefore, the statistics are a bit skewed.
It’s important to keep this in mind when reading them. For instance, Pitbulls are reported as the most likely dog to bite. However, it could be that their bites simply send people to the hospital more. Bites from small dogs are rarely reported because they aren’t as serious.
Featured Image Credit: Agnes Kantaruk, Shutterstock