Find a Surgeon Contact Us

Dog bite injuries a serious problem in New Zealand

  • Posted: Thursday 15 October, 2015

Another dog attack on a young child has prompted the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons president Dr Sally Langley to call for tougher dog-control laws. Read the full story at

A recent study showed that there had been over 99,000 dog bites in New Zealand in the past 10 years

The study was presented at the NZ Association of Plastic Surgeons annual scientific meeting held in Queenstown in August 2015. The national study quantifies the huge burden that dog bites are exacting on our communities. The members of the New Zealand Association of Plastic Surgeons, whose members are generally the doctors who deal with dog bites, are concerned about the increasing incidence of admissions to hospitals for dog bite injuries.

Dog bites are a serious problem with an average of 2 hospital admissions per day. Data shows that over the last 10 years, over a third of these were children, mostly with facial injuries. The Association recognizes this as a significant problem and wishes to highlight this public health issue for dog owners, parents and policy makers. The Association is asking for us, as a society to have a wider debate about how to sensibly deal with this issue.

The findings of the study are below.

The Burden of Dog bite Injuries in New Zealand: 2004-2014.

Authors: Jonny Mair – Medical Student; Zachary Moaveni – Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon, Middlemore Hospital

Key Study Findings

This study describes the pattern of serious dogbite injuries treated across the New Zealand public hospital services for the ten-year period 1st July 2004 to 30th June 2014. There were 99,003 dogbites recorded during this period, with 5,842 cases requiring hospitalization and surgical management.

The incident rate rose steadily from 10.5 / 100,000 population per annum in 2004, to a peak of 14.3 / 100,000 in 2014. This rate is significantly higher than previously reported incidence rates for the New Zealand population and is amongst the highest reported in comparison with studies from Australia, UK, and USA.

The highest risk subgroups were identified as children under the age of 9 years, Maori and those resident in low socioeconomic areas. In cases where the scene of injury was recorded, 69.8% occurred at a private residence or property.

The pattern of injury analysis showed head/neck bites in 79% of 0-4 year olds and 63% of 5-9 year olds. This compared with 8% and 5% head/neck bites respectively in 20-59 year olds and 60+ years age groups.


The incidence of dogbite injuries continues to rise over this 10-year study period and in comparison with previously published rates in New Zealand. Additionally, more vulnerable population subgroups have been identified who are most likely to require hospitalization with serious dogbite injuries. Current national legislation and policy around dog control and education in NZ appears to be inadequate in addressing these trends and is failing in particular the most vulnerable population subgroups.

More links:

TVNZ Sunday episode, 2nd August 2015

NZ Herald article, 3rd August 2015

NZ Herald article, 6th May 2015

NZ Herald opinion piece – Brian Rudman 5th August 2015