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Meta analytical study to investigate the risk factors for aggressive dog-human interactions - AW1405

Canine aggression is the most important behaviour problem in dogs because of its frequency and the consequences for people, and dog bites to humans are a worldwide problem. In addition, aggressive behaviour also leads to relinquishment or euthanasia of dogs and therefore has an adverse effect on animal welfare.
UK estimates suggest that 740 people per 100 000 population per year are bitten by dogs with 250,000 people attending minor injury and emergency units each year due to dog bites. Many non-fatal and fatal dog attacks may be preventable. However, in order to provide suitable and effective preventive measures these must be based on solid scientific evidence.

This study will review available literature and data relating to human-directed dog aggression. We will utilise the systematic review approach to rigorously and systematically identify, select and critically appraise all relevant studies. The systematic review is widely used as an epidemiological tool in human medical research and, unlike the more common narrative review, a systematic review attempts to bring the same level of rigour to reviewing the research evidence as should be used in producing that research evidence.

The specific aims of this proposal are:

• Establishment of an Expert Panel
This panel will provide specialist input to this project and will comprise the applicants as well as other experts from outside parties including representatives from the major dog charities, the kennel club and Defra. The panel will be involved in specification of the research questions and literature search protocols, identification of additional sources of data, providing expert interpretation of the results of the study and identifying priorities for future research.

• A systematic review to identify relevant literature relating to risk factors for human directed dog aggression.
This includes assessing the evidence for a number of potential risk factors likely to include: age of the victim; relationship of person to dog; age of the owner; location of bite incident; breed, age, gender and neutered stats of dog; interactions prior to attack; welfare status and the behavioural history of the dog; previous dog-directed dog aggression.

• Investigation of risk factors for human-directed dog aggression using meta-analysis.
Meta-analysis is the quantitative pooling of data extracted from studies identified during a review. Many published studies may fail to identify the effect of potentially important risk factors because of small sample sizes. Meta-analysis can combine numerous such studies into the equivalent of a single larger study. For potential risk factors for human-directed dog aggression for which our systematic review identifies >1 study, (and where statistically appropriate) meta-analyses will be used to calculate the summary relative risk across the studies.

This work will form the basis of a comprehensive report which will address each research question (risk factor) describing direction of risk and the strength of the evidence. In addition it will:
• Identify knowledge gaps and highlight areas where evidence is weak or contradictory, thus indicating areas where further research is needed.
• Identify areas where there is strong evidence for risk factors upon which preventive measures and policy can be developed.
• Identify additional sources of data relating to human-directed dog aggression which may be used in future research and surveillance.

The results from this study will be widely disseminated in the peer reviewed and scientific press, through a dedicated, searchable web site and through CPD events.

The applicants are well placed to carry out this project as they bring together the skills of epidemiology, canine behaviour and small animal studies. The combined experience of the applicants will ensure the project to be carried out efficiently at the same time as training a student in veterinary epidemiology, systematic review and meta-analysis. The formation of the expert panel will enable the results of the project to be further disseminated amongst other stakeholders and the expert panel has the potential to continue beyond the timeframe of this specific project giving sustainability to this area of research.
Project Documents
• EVID4 - Final project report : AW1405 Final Report   (614k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2010

Cost: £76,279
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Liverpool
Companion Animals              
Monitoring and evaluation              
Social Research              
Fields of Study
Animal Welfare