With nearly 600 animal bites reported locally last year, the health unit is encouraging people to take steps to help stop a problem that too often hits home.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging pet owners and families with young children to Keep Bites at Bay this summer; a time when the number of animal bites – and potential risk of rabies – increases as more people and pets are outdoors.
“We have seen an increase in animal bites incidents in the past couple of years, and most of our investigations continue to involve pets or domestic animals,” explains health protection manager Richard Ovcharovich. “This is a concerning trend, especially given the possible exposure to rabies.”
In 2020, there were 599 animal bites reported in Haliburton and Northumberland County and City of Kawartha Lakes – 433 between January and August alone – down from 672 animal bites in 2019.
Ovcharovich encourages everyone to play their part to keep bites at bay.
“As a parent or caregiver, never leave a young child alone with an animal, even if it’s your pet,” he states. “Children may not know any better and start to rile or incite even friendly animals to act out and attack. The result can be an animal bite or scratch that leads to severe, long-lasting physical and emotional trauma.”
The health unit has developed an animal-bites prevention classroom resource and activity tied to the school curriculum and reaching out to local educators. Public health inspectors will present it virtually to students in classrooms that have expressed interest.
Pet owners play an equally important role in prevention.
“Owners have the responsibility to make sure their pets are fully vaccinated against rabies. they should also make certain pets are leashed, under control, and discouraged from running free unless they are in a designated dog park,” he adds. “Owners should pay extra close attention if children are nearby.”
Pet owners are also encouraged to take part in the international yellow ribbon campaign. Tying the ribbons to collars helps show a pet, usually a dog, needs space, not always because the animal is aggressive but it could be nervous, grumpy, in training, or recovering from surgery.
If a bite occurs, people are encouraged to obtain the pet owner’s contact information, and, if possible, take a picture of the animal or remember specific features such as markings.