Dog attacks on the rise since pandemic ownership boom

Milton Keynes dog attack: Police at scene where girl killed

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Dog ownership has soared since Britons sought the comfort of pets during the coronavirus lockdown. While biting incidents have been rising steadily for a decade, the number of fatal attacks has shot up in the past year. Prosecutions for the owners of dangerously out-of-control dogs have increased in turn. has compiled the data into a map so you can find out exactly how many deaths have been caused by dogs in your area.

The victim of Tuesday’s fatal dog attack in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, has been named locally as four-year-old Alice Stones.

Emergency services were called to the house early in the evening of January 31 after she had been bitten in the back garden. Thames Valley Police destroyed the dog on site, but no arrests have so far been made.

This comes just weeks after 28-year-old Natasha Johnson was mauled to death by the eight dogs she was hired to walk in Caterham, Surrey, on January 12.

The data show that deadly dog attacks are on the rise. Since the Office for National Statistics (ONS) began recording annual tallies a decade ago there have never been more than five in a given year – in 2022 there were ten.

READ MORE: Dog that killed four-year-old Alice Stones yesterday was ‘family pet’

The number of dogs kept as pets in the UK has soared since the pandemic began. There are now an estimated 13 million dog owners in the country, up from nine million in 2020, according to the Pet Food Manufacturing Report.

Veterinary charity PDSA estimates that just over a quarter (27 per cent) of all British adults owned a dog last year.

Hospitalisations for dog bite treatment have been on the rise for a decade, but there has been a sharp spike in the past year. The health service recorded 3,079 admissions for the treatment of dog bites in 1999 in England, increasing almost threefold to 8,655 over the past year, according to NHS Digital.

Malcolm Morley, junior vice president for the British Veterinary Association, said: “The COVID-19 lockdowns saw a huge spike in pet ownership, coinciding with severely limited access to training and socialising opportunities for new puppies, some of whom will have been bred without consideration for their welfare.

“It’s therefore sadly unsurprising that we have seen increased cases of unwanted behaviour, some of which can result in dogs biting people.”

Use the interactive map below to find out how common fatal dog attacks are in your area…

On Wednesday evening, a vigil was held for Alice at Grand Union Vineyard Church to “enable the community to come together and draw strength from each other.” She joins a harrowing list of victims of horrific dog attacks over the past year.

Last January 10, 68-year-old John William Jones from Lampeter, Wales, was bitten by three British bulldogs in his home, subsequently dying at the scene from his injuries. On December 3, 83-year-old Shirley Patrick received injuries from an American Bully XL and Cane Corso cross that she would ultimately die from in the hospital 17 days later.

Between those two incidents were eight others, bringing 2022’s total to a record high of ten. In comparison, there were just five in 2021 and two in 2020. Commenting on the 2022 figure, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We take this disturbing rise extremely seriously and are exploring measures to reduce dog attacks and promote responsible ownership.”

In the past decade, 36 people in the UK have died due to a dog attack, with victims ranging in age from a 17-month-old toddler to an 83-year-old pensioner.

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There have been more fatal dog attacks in the North West than any other region of the UK, with 10 deaths in the past ten years, Ms Dunn the most recent case.

The second-highest number was in Wales, with six. Caerphilly in South Wales alone saw the death of 10-year-old Jack Lis in November 2021 and Ms Patrick last December.

Only one fatality per region was reported in the North East, London, the South West, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice show 668 court proceedings were launched in 2021 against dog owners in England and Wales last year after their dangerously out-of-control pets attacked people – a 19 per cent increase from the 2020 figure.

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