Statistics show why dog controls needed

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am

I refer to the letter from Graeme Alford regarding the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation (South China Morning Post, July 16).

Hong Kong is a crowded city in which dogs and people find themselves sharing confined spaces.

Many people in Hong Kong do not welcome encounters with large unleashed dogs on footpaths or with unmuzzled, unrestrained dogs in a lift or stairwell. In these situations, dogs may be aggravated unintentionally, resulting in a biting incident.

Under the regulation, several measures have been proposed for control of dogs over 20 kilograms in weight (so-called 'large dogs') that will enhance the safety and sense of security of the public while providing little inconvenience to dog owners or their dogs.

Only 'large' dogs within indoor public places would be required to be fitted with a muzzle and held on a leash. Dogs in outdoor public places would only need to be kept on a leash not exceeding two metres in length.

In his letter, Mr Alford requested government statistics relevant to the proposed dangerous dogs regulation. The following figures have been extracted from the Agriculture and Fisheries Department (AFD) records on dog bites for the past two years (April 1997 to March 1999).

During this period, 4,532 dog bite cases were recorded. Of these, detailed investigations were conducted on 3,075 cases. The remaining cases could not be investigated because the victim was not located or would not disclose information, or because the dog could not be identified or caught.

In 1998/99, local chow and mongrel dogs accounted for 52.5 per cent of the total bites, Shih tzu's for nine per cent, German shepherds 4.5 per cent, Rottweilers four per cent, terrier-types four per cent, Sharpei three per cent and Pekinese three per cent. The remaining 20 per cent were caused by 40 other breeds, none causing more than two per cent of total bites. Overall more than 70 per cent of bites were caused by dogs that would fit into the 'large dog' category in the proposed Dangerous Dogs Regulation.

Of these biter dogs, 2,270 were reclaimed or surrendered by their keepers, demonstrating that the majority of these cases were caused by improperly controlled, owned dogs.

Our records show that 53 attacks during this two-year period resulted in the admission of the victim to hospital, with 24 of these patients remaining in hospital for more than seven days. Of the serious injuries, 22 out of 24 were caused by 'large dogs'.

Of the investigated bite cases, 1,967 occurred in areas where controls on large dogs would be applied under the proposed regulation; 512 in indoor public places and 1,455 in outdoor public places. In 807 of these cases, there was sufficient evidence of a breach of the Rabies Ordinance to proceed with prosecution.

This was successful in 92 per cent of cases with penalties imposed by the courts for dog bites in public places ranging from $20 to $6,000.

The information presented here demonstrates that large dogs represent a greater risk to public safety than small dogs.

While the AFD recognises that not all large dogs are dangerous, we believe that the proposed measures for control of 'large dogs' provide an appropriate balance between public safety and animal welfare concerns. We also believe that these measures are supported by most members of the community, more than 90 per cent of whom do not own dogs.

L. D. SIMS for Director of Agriculture and Fisheries