University experts support dog bite prevention campaign

Dog bite and behaviour experts from the University of Liverpool are working with Merseyside Police to help reduce incidents of dog bites in Merseyside, starting this summer.

Launched today (24 July 2023), the Taking the Lead campaign offers important safety tips to all dog owners in Merseyside about looking after their pet, especially around children, which could prevent serious injuries.

Dr John Tulloch, Lecturer in Veterinary Public Health and dog behaviour expert Dr Carri Westgarth have shared research and expertise with Merseyside Police and partners to develop this campaign.

Statistics provided by the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Liverpool show that in Merseyside, there tends to be more dog bites in areas with socio-economic challenges.

Between 1998 and 2018 around 5% of all national hospital admissions in relation to dog bites occurred in Merseyside, with Knowsley containing the most incidents per populations across 333 local authorities in England.

In terms of the other boroughs, St Helens was the fifth highest local authority for hospitalisation rates, Liverpool was sixth, Sefton was 30th and Wirral was 106th.

Dr John Tulloch, said: “We know that dog bites are a community problem, and the Take the Lead campaign is a fantastic approach to working with local residents to help reduce the risk that dogs can pose. We fully endorse and support the ongoing work of Merseyside Police to help communities live and work with their dogs in a safe way that will help to avoid life-changing injuries.”

Police data shows that children under 16 are most likely to be the victims of dog bites and this risk increases significantly in the summer when more children are at home with their pets or around other people’s dogs, and are also spending more time in public spaces. Although parks and beaches have been identified as hot spots for incidents, dog bites can happen anywhere and most bites occur in the home.

Dog behaviour expert Dr Carri Westgarth said: “It is important to remember that any dog can bite regardless of how well you know it, and most bites will occur in the owner’s home. It’s important to give dogs their own safe space to be alone, give them plenty of exercise and mental stimulation, and when your dog wants to be left alone leave them be.

“Dog bites to children can be very severe so ensure that you observe children and dogs closely and intervene when necessary. Dogs do not want to bite you, it is a last resort response for them, so watch out for any warning signs of them being uncomfortable in a situation and remove yourselves, or them, from it.”

Inspector Katie Wilkinson, Merseyside Police said said: “We know that during the summer holidays, when children are spending more time at home, the number of dog bites increases.

“By running Taking the Lead as the schools break up, Merseyside Police hopes to give children and parents the knowledge and skills to stay safe over the six week holidays and in the future. This will help to reduce the number of youngsters hurt by dogs and improve their understanding of dogs and their needs, regardless of their breed or size.”

To find out more about the campaign visit