Children still the most vulnerable to being bitten by dogs. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives
Children still the most vulnerable to being bitten by dogs. Picture: African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Lack of proper adult supervision blamed for dog-bite injuries of children

By Siyabonga Kalipa Time of article published Jun 5, 2021

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Cape Town - The Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH) has dealt with 37 dog-bite injuries during the first quarter of the year.

Of these, two were fatal.

There have been numerous reports about children who have been attacked by dogs this year.

A ChildSafe report shows that last year 107 dog-bite injuries were reported.

RCWMCH spokesperson Dwayne Evans said as the dedicated paediatric trauma centre, they often see and treat serious dog-bite injuries.

“Many child injuries, including dog bites, can be attributed to lack of proper adult supervision,” he said.

Evans said, most dog bites occur when a dog feels threatened and often children are unable to identify situations in which a dog may feel threatened, proper adult supervision is necessary to help identify and avoid these situations.

He said there are a number of ways we can prevent dog injuries to children.

He said never leave a small child alone with a dog, no matter if it is the family dog, a dog that is known to you or even a dog that you have been assured is well behaved, any dog can bite.

Evans said be alert for potential dangerous situations, educate families on neutering male dogs and avoid choosing unsafe breeds as pets.

He said that children must avoid strange and stray dogs and to ask a dog owner for permission before petting or getting close to any dog.

Evans said while animal temperament and training plays a role, it is commonly acknowledged that some dog breeds are known to be more aggressive than others, injuries vary between traditionally aggressive breeds to more placid breeds.

“Unneutered male dogs are, by far, responsible for most of the more serious and fatal attacks,” he said.

Head of the social work department at RCWMCH Carla Brown said: “The RCWMCH takes the dog-bite cases very seriously because we have sadly witnessed the severity of physical injuries in children like degloving injuries, eye injuries, loss of a limb, major scarring, the immediate psychological adjustment issues some children face post the dog bite and the long-term post trauma issues children experience,"

Animal Welfare Society of South Africa spokesperson Allan Perrins said most dogs instinctively react to a threat in two ways. They either flee or fight.

He said there are numerous triggers, provocation and teasing are common causes.

Perrins said, all dogs have the capacity to bite and will do so if their tolerance thresholds are crossed, people should be as weary of small breeds (with large attitudes) as they are of large or power breeds.

He said the difference between being bitten by a small breed versus a large breed is the force of the bite.

“Pit bulls have potentially fatal bone-crushing bites whereas smaller breeds like Dachshunds or Chihuahuas are more likely to snap with less devastating consequences,” he said.

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Weekend Argus

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