Dog breed or dog owner? Who’s to blame for injuries?

As a rule, Australians love their pets, particularly dogs. According to the RSPCA, roughly half of Australian households have a dog.

In many of those households, the pooch will be treated as a family member. That includes a very broad range of dog breeds, including perennial favourites such as Labradors and border collies.

But in the eyes of many, not all dog breeds are equal. This view of inequality can take the relatively harmless form of some dogs being derided as dumb or ugly.

However, there’s a far more serious side to the argument, and it involves the safety of both dogs and humans. Occasionally it can involve other species, too.

The Queensland state government is considering banning a number of dog breeds it says are dangerous. The breeds under consideration include the Dogo Argentino, Fila Brasileiro, Japanese Tosa, American pit bull terrier (pit bull terrier) and Perro de Presa Canario (Presa Canario).

These breeds have been identified as potentially dangerous, though there is vigorous debate surrounding these assertions.

Two highly regarded Australian animal welfare organisations have weighed in, arguing that banning by breed is the wrong solution.

Both organisations, the Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) and the RSPCA, argue that the safety focus should be on dog owners.

Dog breed or dog owner?

President of the AVA’s Australian Veterinary Behavioural Medicine special interest group Isabelle Resch eschews the breed-specific approach.

“Breed-specific approaches to dog regulation are not effective as they do not protect the public by reducing dog bite incidents,” she said.

AVA Queensland president Dr Ben Brightman supports that view.

“A breed on its own is not an effective indicator or predictor of aggression in dogs,” he said.

Figures from Sydney Children’s Hospital show that between 2011 and 2020, pit bulls were responsible for a little over 10 per cent of dog-related injuries to children.

Labradors made up 8.5 per cent of the dog-related admissions, followed by rottweilers 6.8 per cent. Bulldogs and border collies account for 6 per cent each.

Based on those numbers alone, one could argue that Labradors are almost as dangerous as pit bulls. But that argument, of course, does not factor in the proportion of each breed that makes up Sydney’s canine population.

Could inherent biases be skewing the numbers?

On the other hand, the RSPCA points out that dog breeds involved in attacks can often be inaccurately reported and presented.

Data reveals that the family pet accounted for 49 per cent of incidents relating to children, prompting researchers who worked on the study to warn parents, especially those of young children, to be extra vigilant.

Plastic surgeon Dr Pouria Moradi, who was also involved in the research, agrees. “It’s not the nature of the dog, but the nature of the incident that is the issue,” she said.

“Such incidents can involve seemingly harmless activities, such as stepping on a tail or getting too close or pulling ears.”

Queensland is not the only state to have taken or considered action based purely on breed. Many states already have their own bans on a number of breeds.

Do you have a dog of a breed that some consider dangerous? What do you think of the proposed bans in Queensland? Let us know via the comments section below.

Also read: Why dogs can be considered truly exceptional animals

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health issues and is not advice. For health advice, consult your medical practitioner.

Andrew Gigacz
Andrew Gigacz
Andrew has developed knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income and government entitlements, as well as issues affecting older Australians moving into or living in retirement. He's an accomplished writer with a passion for health and human stories.


  1. The owner .. the dogs are an extension of the owner .. it’s up to them to train the animal.. it’s the owner who should be penalised not the dog ..

    & in saying that children should also be taught to respect the dog .. not be cruel..
    I know of many so called ‘dangerous‘ dogs .. trained & treated properly they are the most loyal & trustworthy animals ever..

  2. SURE dogs are like we humans and most if not all other animals in that they all have their own individual personalities.–and sometimes misgivings.

    But that does not mean one breed is more vicious than the next. in fact dogs are generally NOT an aggressive animal. at all.
    the agressiveness is created or caused , by humans.
    through creulty, mistreatment and / or other fault/s of humans. –BUT OF COARSE it is usually
    if not always the dog/s that are maid to suffer. because of it.

  3. All dogs can and will bite or attack if mistreated. It is the owner’s course of action to have the dog and owner trained by a professional trainer. There are many dog owner clubs that undertake training sessions to help people train their animals. Young children should not be allowed to handle a dog without a parent or adult in attendance at all times. Children should also be told how to approach any dog and not approach if the dog barks or growls. Even if it is on a lead.

  4. Owners should be tested before being allowed to get a dog as a pet and tbey should be forced to join supervised training programs every time they get a new animal.. Too many owners think that local laws do not apply to them letting them off leash in protected areas and areas clearly signposted as ON LEASH only. They fail to train their dogs and are incapable of controlling them. They treat them like children (including dressing them up like dolls) – which they are not. Doing so demeans the animal for what it is. Owners should have to prove that the accommodation they are taking the dog into is appropriate for the size and breed of dog. There are too many dogs in apartments that are unsuitable and then the dog causes problems for other residents e.g. cattle dogs left on balconies ‘chasing’ everything that moves outside incessant barking going on for hours. Have your pets but don’t inflict them and your poor behaviour on others.

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