AniEd was saddened and shocked to learn of the tragic death of a woman yesterday, due to a dog attack. This is the first such fatality recorded in Ireland. We extend our sincerest condolences to her family and loved ones, and those who attended the scene.
At this stage, details are not complete or confirmed, and as such we urge caution in commenting and speculating.
There is no benefit in assigning blame to any party, but rather in learning from such incidents, so as to help prevent tragedy happening again.
Dog bites and attacks that result in serious injury are terribly rare, and fatal attacks even more so. Relative to our contact and exposure to dogs, there is a very small risk attached to such interactions, regardless of the dog breed or type.
However, there will always be an emotional response to attacks and serious incidents involving dogs – they are “man’s best friend” after all.
Our remit is canine behaviour, rather than speculation and sensation. Due to the rarity of fatal and serious dog attacks, data is incomplete, especially here in Ireland. The most reliable research on this topic is from the US, looking at 256 fatal dog attacks over a ten-year period (Patronek et al, 2013).
This work identified co-occurrent factors involved in such incidents, including, a vulnerable victim without able-bodied supervision, victim unfamiliar to the dogs, dogs who have been kept isolated from regular human interactions and prior concerning incidents involving the dogs.
Breed or type is not predictive of involvement in serious incidents.
The factors identified in this work are seen in most cases involving serious injury, and are preventable. Such factors may have contributed in this incident in Galway too; an inquest will be scheduled and we will have more information to help us help others prevent such incidents.
Dog behaviour is expressed in response to environmental stimulation: what goes on around the dog determines their responses. Even though dogs inherit characteristics, both phenotypic and behavioural, these genetic effects will be expressed relative to the dog’s environmental conditions. This is generally determined by the humans who produce the dog, who rear the dog, who care for the dog, who are responsible for the dog.
Widespread education is needed to help ensure people can care for their dogs in a manner that promotes safe and welfare-friendly interactions with dogs, so that dog behaviour is adequately managed and the canine-human relationship is enhanced.
We are available for further comment and guidance on this topic in general, and in relation to this incident as confirmed details emerge.