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Dog owners criticised for dog attacks

Brits blame dog owners as dog attacks rise

- Approximately 200,000 dog attacks reported in the UK each year (1)

- Nearly half the nation (44%) believe the main reason a dog attacks is if it has not been handled correctly or lacks training

- Three quarters (76%) call for compulsory dog training

The number of people admitted to hospital for dog bites has soared by 76% (2) in the past decade, but it seems that Brits are blaming owners – rather than dogs for the rise in dog attacks.

In a YouGov report commissioned by leading legal services provider Simpson Millar, almost half of the nation (44%) believes that a dog is most likely to attack if it has not been trained or handled correctly. In fact, three quarters of the public (76%) believe that dog training should be compulsory for all owners.

In legal company Simpson Millar’s report 'Are We Doing Enough To Prevent Dog Attacks?' it’s clear that there is no one breed that is responsible for the rise in dog attacks. While Pitbull breeds have caused eight fatalities between 1989 and 2015, Jack Russell Terriers have caused the death of two children (3). And according to the NHS, pets or dogs owned by friends or neighbours are usually the main culprits.

Sally Barnes, dog whisperer and trainer adds, “Dogs are unpredictable animals and however much we want to change the dog into our companion; the dog remains a dog with its innate predatory characteristics. It’s down to the owner to be the dog’s leader and give the dog its boundaries, rules and limitations, in order to keep it and everybody around it safe. As humans, sadly, we are mostly unaware of this. It’s the people that have to change and understand their dog’s needs as a pack animal.”

However, it’s not just dog owners who need to re-assess the way they are interacting with man’s best friend, nearly three in five people (57%) agree that the public should be taught how to read a dog’s body language. Only a third of the public (33%) admit they have asked permission from a dog owner to pet their dog before approaching it, and one in twenty (5%) claim they have run over to stroke an unknown dog.

Young adults aged 18-24 were almost three times more likely than the average (13% compared to 5%) to run over and pet a stranger’s dog. They were also found to be more than twice as likely (13% compared to 6%) to have made excitable noises in front of a dog they did not know.

While it’s important that owners learn how to correctly address behavioural issues, there has been one other major problem - up until recently, the industry has not been regulated, which has meant anyone can market themselves as a professional trainer. In response to this issue and the widespread confusion, the Kennel Club created the Kennel Club Accredited Instructor Scheme (KCAI).

Legal Milestone

A 65-year-old woman was recently awarded £30,000 in compensation after she was scarred for life by a pack of Alsatians. This is a milestone win that was handled by lawyer Lisa Wright of Simpson Millar.

Phillip Gower, Partner, from the Personal Injury and Industrial Disease department at Simpson Millar commented, “We have dealt with 100 dog attack cases in the past 12 months and unless owners and dog lovers recognise the need to change their own behaviour we can only see this number increasing. Whatever the reason for an attack, there clearly needs to be a better understanding into how dogs behave.”

For more information on how dog attacks can be prevented and for case studies, head over to the Simpson Millar report - Are We Doing Enough To Prevent Dog Attacks?


1 Figures from research for the British Medical Journal

2 Figures from the Health & Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC)

3 UK Fatal Dog Attacks statistics – compiled by CWU Health, Safety & Environment Department (as of June 2015)

About Sally Barnes

Sally Barnes is an experienced dog whisperer and trainer based in Bristol. To find out more about Sally and her work, please visit:

For more info on legal experts Simpson Millar, please visit:

There is no commercial relationship between and Simpson Millar or Sally Barnes.

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