Decline in hospitalisations due to dog bite injuries in Catalonia, 1997−2008. An effect of government regulation?

December 2010 | By Joan R Villalbi, Montse Cleries, Susana Bouis, Victor Peracho, Julia Duran and Conrad Casas

A study analyzing hospitalizations for dog bite injuries over a 12-year period in Catalonia, Spain after changes in legal regulations, including breed-specific regulations, showed a 38% decrease.

Study highlights

  • The study reports a significant decline in hospitalization (severe injuries) caused by injuries from dog bites from 1.80/100 000 in 1997-1999 to 1.11/100 000 in 2006-2008, after the enactment of stricter regulations on dog ownership, including breed-specific regulations, in 1999 and 2002. The degree of this change is significant, (-38%), and has been greatest in less urban settings.
  • The study is based in Catalonia, Spain (population 7.2 million). Information was collected on all hospital discharges financed by the Catalan Health Service for the 12 years from 1997 to 2008. All cases for which dog bite was present as an external cause code (ICD-9-CM code E906.0) were included, sorted by place of residence (the city of Barcelona versus the rest of Catalonia).
  • In 1999 and 2002, regulations on dog ownership -- also specific to potentially dangerous dogs -- were approved by both the Kingdom of Spain and the government of Catalonia. The definition of potentially dangerous dogs included several breeds (in Catalonia: pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Rottweiler, bullmastiff, Naples mastiff, Argentina mastiff, Bordeaux mastiff, Canary fighting dog, Brazilian Fila, Doberman, tosa inu, akita inu and their mixed breeds), those with certain physical traits (regarding size, weight, thorax size, muscle, head and jaws, etc).
  • Regulations mandated that a special license is required to own such an animal, which requires special insurance coverage, and both a psychological aptitude certificate and the absence of criminal records for the owner. Regulations also mandated that such dogs had to be leashed and muzzled in public areas and identified with microchips or other suitable means. These regulations received extensive public attention and media coverage, and in successive years were often transposed in municipal ordinances, to ensure enforcement by local police.
  • This study shows a significant decline in hospitalization due to injuries caused by dog bites from 1997 to 2008, after the enactment of stricter regulations on dog ownership in 1999 and 2002. The magnitude of this change is significant, and seems to have been greatest in the less urban settings, where other studies have documented a higher risk of dog bite injuries. Its effect seems to have been cumulative and not concentrated at a single time point.
  • The study also notes that the current low demand for breeds considered potentially dangerous has led to their practical disappearance from pet shops.
Decline in Hospitalisations Due to Dog Bite Injuries in Catalonia, 1997–2008. An Effect of Government Regulation?, by Joan R Villalbi, Montse Cleries, Susana Bouis, Víctor Peracho, Julia Duran and Conrad Casas, Injury Prevention, December 2010;16(6):408-10.