Census collectors have a bone to pick with pesky dogs
The 10th Census of Population and Housing was conducted on Monday, 30 June 1986. Some 38,000 ABS employees were involved in the collection and distribution of material to households for this census. However, in August of that year a survey of a very different nature was undertaken by the ABS.
In 1986 the Law Reform Commission of New South Wales (LRC) was undertaking work regarding the control of dogs in the state and the means of imposing civil or criminal liability in respect of dogs on private land. As part of its investigation the LRC approached the ABS for information about the extent to which Census collectors experienced problems with accessing properties where dogs were involved. As a result of discussion between the two parties the Survey of Dog Problems in the 1986 Population Census was undertaken in August 1986. For the purposes of the survey a dog "attack" was defined as one where the collector was bitten by a dog, with some resulting injury or clothing damage.
The 1986 survey yielded some interesting findings to say the least. Overall, the chance of a collector being attacked by a dog when visiting a house was about one in 5000, with 87.4% of these attacks occurring on private land.
It appears that dogs weren't the only concern for Census collectors. One collector was bitten by a horse, another encountered a large bull standing guard at a house, and a third was chased off a property by a large pig. Bird life also caused some problems, with emus, plovers and geese either attacking or pursuing ABS staff.
Census collectors working for national statistical organisations overseas have also encountered similar problems. One incident in Malaysia resulted in the arrest of a man who let his two dogs loose to chase a Census enumerator.
Today a comprehensive set of guidelines has been compiled for Census collectors in order to minimise the risk of any undesired dog-related incidents.