Any time a person is killed as a result of a dog attack, it is truly devastating, but when a child dies, it is even more upsetting. Sadly, a young boy lost his life in Dublin, this morning, due to injuries suffered after being attacked by dogs.
We, of course, extend our sincerest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones, and those who attended the scene.
This is the second such tragic fatality recorded in Ireland. At this time, details are not complete or confirmed so we urge caution in commenting or 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.
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.
Some combination of these risk factors is present in most incidents involving serious injury and are preventable through environmental management and modification.
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.
We have just produced guidance for pet owners in relation to the additional stressors for pet dogs during this time of change and challenge. This piece includes a significant amount of information on maintaining child-dog safety. We will also have further resources available over the coming days.