UAE dog owners urged to be vigilant as doctors deal with spate of attacks

One healthcare network said it treats up to 70 dog bite injuries a month

Dog bite wounds sustained after a dog attack in Fujairah last year. Photo: Supplied
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Dog owners are being urged to be aware of the dangers their pets can pose to the public, as one health provider reported treating dozens of injuries caused by attacks each month.

Experts and doctors have highlighted the need for animal lovers to have a duty of care for others and ensure dogs are kept under control and supervised at all times.

A recent court case in Dubai involving a 50-year-old Chinese businessman, who faced deportation after his dog attacked a 12-year-old Emirati boy, underlined why owners should exercise caution.

The Dubai Court of Misdemeanours heard the dog was left unattended and unleashed, leading to the incident on December 5 last year.

The child, who was playing outside, was bitten on the right leg. He needed hospital treatment from minor injuries.

The court initially handed down a one-month prison sentence followed by deportation, which was reduced on appeal to a Dh10,000 fine after the man's lawyer called for leniency based on the impact of the ruling on his family and employees.

Up to 70 dog bites a month

Recent figures from Emirates Health Services, a major healthcare provider, showed its 17 hospitals across the country typically deal with between 50 to 70 cases of dog bites every month.

Dr Abdul Rahman Al Qudra, an emergency department physician at Fujairah Hospital, said immediate medical assessment for bites is essential.

"If the wound is in the neck, head, face, or extremities like hands, fingers, or feet, it's crucial to have it examined by a doctor without delay," he said.

He stressed the importance of initial response.

"The individual should be calmed and reassured by the physician before addressing his wound."

He said its important to follow prescribed protocols in relation to vaccinations.

"Tetanus injections should be administered as per the recommended regulations, depending on the case," he said.

He urged taking the canine rabies vaccine injection according to the World Health Organisation's schedule.

"It's important to remember that vaccination isn't just for dog bites but also applicable to bites from various other rabid animals suspected of tetanus infection."

Dr Manoj Sharma, a general practitioner at Aster Hospital in Al Qusais, said dog bites injuries can range from minor cuts and scratches to severe tissue damage and infections.

“Even if the bite seems minor, it's essential to seek medical help to assess the wound.”

Owners face legal consequences

The recently concluded Dubai court case echoes previous incidents, one of which involved a girl who was attacked by a negligently supervised dog, leading to a civil lawsuit and compensation.

Another involved an unlicensed dog attacking a family on a Fujairah beach, resulting in fines for the dog's owners.

Pauline Van Lersel, a dog trainer from Dubai-based Paw Pals, said such occurrences could be prevented.

"It’s the dog owner’s duty to keep the dog and those around it safe. Understanding a dog's language is crucial," she said.

Dogs must be removed from stressful situations, kept under observation, engaged in comprehensive socialisation and tailored training and have their environment at home secured to prevent escapes, she said.

“Proper socialisation involves gradual, positive exposure to different environments and experiences," said Ms Van Lersel.

She said owners often miss or misinterpret signals of discomfort or stress in their dogs.

Early warning signs of aggression or stress include nose or lip licking, raised paw, yawning, head turning, walking in a curve, and wagging the tail in a low position, among others.

Regarding legal responsibilities, she emphasised the importance of using leads and in some cases muzzles for certain breeds.

"In Dubai, adhering to legal requirements for dog ownership isn't just about compliance, it's a critical aspect of community safety," she said.

"Using leads and muzzles when necessary can prevent many unfortunate incidents and ensure both the dog's and the public's well-being."

“Every breed has its own needs," she said, "and fulfilling these is key to ensuring their well-being and safety around people.”

She said new dog owners should consider professional training, even if only for a few initial sessions.

Successful training involves the owner learning to manage and understand their dog, as the effectiveness of the training largely depends on the owner's involvement and consistency.

Updated: March 28, 2024, 9:18 AM