Let's Doggy Paddle Across the Pond: Comparing US and UK Dog Bite Injuries to Determine BSL Efficacy

The Puppycide Database Project is ordinarily focused on data collection solely within the United States. Over time, we would love to improve use of force transparency in other countries, but the problems here in the US are tough enough to keep us busy for quite a while.

That said, it has come to our attention the the UK has adopted very stringent Breed Specific Legislation, banning what the UK government has declared to be "dangerous breeds" of dogs. The ban went into effect in 1991 as part of the Dangerous Dogs Act. Initially, the Act banned ownership of the pit bull, Japanese Tosa, Dogo Argentino and Fila Brasileiro. The Act is so strict that at least one dog, rescued by the police and midway through training to become a police dog, was killed when it was discovered that he was partially pit bull.

Despite the ban, there are still some 1000 pit bulls alive and well in the UK due to exemptions of one kind or another. Still, out of a population of over 60 million, 1000 pits is not many dogs.

Determining the actual dangerousness of dogs and how human beings can safely co-exist with dogs without the need for violence is at the heart of why the Puppycide Database Project exists. Bans of what many consider to be dangerous breeds, with pit bulls normally topping that list, are one option that has seen continued interest among anti-dog activists and municipal governments here in the US. The adoption of a national, strict BSL by the UK provides us with a unique opportunity to determine the efficacy of such laws in preventing dog bite injuries and deaths.

Previously we have looked in-depth at dog bite injuries and fatalities here in the US. We plan to compare this research with a new study looking at dog bites and injuries in the United States, relying on data from the National Health Service.

We have already put together some very initial numbers looking at a few years from 2011 to 2014. So far, it appears that dog bite fatalities in the UK are in fact lower than they are in the US. At the one year we looked at specifically, there were 3 deaths in the UK per a population of 64,097,085. The closest comparison year we have in the US is 2011, for which there were 34 deaths for a population of 311,591,917. The per capita rate of death translates to the following:

UK 0.000000468040005%
US 0.000001091170795%

As we can see, the US rate of death is higher - more than twice as high per population! However, dog ownership rates are also lower in the UK per capita. Where less dogs exist, it goes without saying there will be less dog attacks. Per capita rates between the two countries are as follows:

Country     Dog pop.    Human pop.  Dogs per capita
USA         67085100    311591917   0.2152979469
UK          6734000     62218761    0.1082310205

As we can see, dog ownership in the USA is twice as high as in the UK. All of a sudden, that roughly 2:1 ratio in dog death comparisons makes a bit more sense.

When we adjust for per capita dog ownership, we start to see a more realistic comparison of "dog dangerousness". Just as a back-of-the-napkin sort of deal, let's multiply the per-capita ownership by the per-capita deaths, and create two ratios: US over UK and UK over US.

US/UK Dog Dangerousness Ratio:  0.85325408284
UK/US Dog Dangerousness Ratio:  1.17198384518

Our very rough-trade calculation here shows that even after doing some vulgar adjustment for per-capita ownership, dog fatalities are still more likely to occur in the US than in the UK.

But is this due to the dogs, or is this due to something else? In our US analysis, we discovered that dog bite fatalities only impacted two age groups: the very old and the very young. Could a difference in demographics between the UK and US account for a distinction in fatalities?

Just to be clear, our discussion here only serves to demonstrate how we plan to approach this problem. We must thoroughly caution our readers that it is impossible to deduce real trends by only looking at a group of 3 deaths in a population of over 60 million. Real results can only start to take shape when we have looked at numbers over a long period of time. Dog bite injuries will provide a much larger pool of data than fatalities, and looking at the two groups together will provide us with even more information.

If you are interested in helping with this new project, let us know! There is no need to have a background in statistics, as we could use help in all sorts of different areas to complete this new analysis.