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The discussion about the danger dogs present to humans has aroused public interest in Germany in the last few years. The law for the handling and control of dogs in Berlin was enacted to prevent the risks for humans and animals when they have contact with dogs. “Dangerous dogs” have been defined by this law. There are 10 breeds of dogs supposedly dangerous due to specific characteristics of their breed (“listed breeds”). The dangerousness of a dog breed is not identical with the dangerousness of an individual. The object of this study is to examine the possible potential dangerousness of dog breeds and not the individual dangerousness of a dog.
This study refers to the statistic of incidents between dogs and humans in Berlin for the years 1998 to 2004. The densities of population of a breed were based on the dogs assessed for tax purposes in Berlin and on the dog registrations maintained at veterinary hospitals. The documentation data of dog-human-incidents have been recorded by various administrative agencies of Berlin.
The absolute number of incidents per year decreased in Berlin from 1762 to 976 during the last 7 years. From the total population of 107,804 tax assessed dogs in Berlin in 2004, 0.9% were documented as dogs involved in incidents with humans.
The percentage of a breed involved in incidents may have increased, although the absolute number of conspicuous dogs of this breed was unchanged or decreased in the time period (conspicuous dog = dog, which is likely to be involved in an incident). This was recognizable for some breeds in this study like Sheep dogs, Rottweiler, Dachshund and Golden Retriever. The comparison of the proportion of a breed involved in incidents with the proportion of this breed in the whole population can reveal data which leads one to believe that the dangerousness of a breed has grown from year to year; however, this must not be the case if the numbers of incidents of another breed have decreased.
Therefore, the probability (the odds ratio) of a breed to be conspicuous was analysed. The comparison of the probability of a breed with another to be conspicuous was used to compile a cluster of breeds, which had the same probability to be conspicuous in 2004. A cluster was assessed for dogs of the following breeds: Sheep dogs, Rottweiler, Doberman, Pitbull Terrier and American Staffordshire Terrier.
The dog-human-incidents can only be analysed retrospectively, and incidents in the private domain are for the most part not even reported at the present time. In the opinion of many people, the incidents between dogs and humans precede an absolute unpredictable behaviour of the dog. This behaviour can be best confronted with a general muzzle and leash requirement. It will be discussed in this study, whether it is necessary to pass special legal restrictions for owners of some dog breeds to secure public order and safety and whether the dangerousness of dogs reflects the knowledge and the abilities of the dog owners.