KAWARTHA LAKES-In each of the past three years, the Health Unit has investigated more than 600 animal bite/scratch incidents in Haliburton County, Northumberland County, and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“The rise in animal bites incidents is worrying given the rabies-exposure risk, the trauma suffered by the victim, and the fact that most of these bites involve pets or domestic animals,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection with the HKPR District Health Unit. “Our new campaign highlights yellow as the colour of caution, which identifies when dogs need their space and reduces potential bites or scratches if someone gets too close. Simply put: see yellow on a pet, give the animal space!”
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is encouraging the use of a yellow ribbon (or bandana, bow or similar marker) tied on a dog’s leash or collar to remind people to give the animal space. It’s part of the Health Unit’s Caution: I Might Bite awareness campaign to reduce the number of reported animal bites in its region, which continues to dog the area. Yellow is the colour of caution on traffic lights, and now a warning sign to give space to dogs and other animals that need it.
The Health Unit’s Caution: I Might Bite campaign builds on an international movement known as the ‘Yellow Dog Project’ that encourages people to use yellow to show dogs need space. By tying a yellow ribbon or something similar to a dog’s leash or collar, pet owners are stating the animal needs space for various reasons. This could include age, health issues (including recovering from surgery), nervousness, aggression or training.
Ovcharovich encourages families, especially children, to realize what the yellow ribbon or marker means and give the animal space. It’s best not to approach or try petting the animal without the owner’s full attention and direction, he adds.
The Health Unit has developed a Keep Bites at Bay school-based classroom resource and activity for student in Grades Kindergarten to Grade 6. It promotes animal bites prevention and promotes the use of yellow ribbons to indicate some animals need space. Teachers are encouraged to present the information in class or arrange to have Public Health Inspectors from the Health Unit do this. To book a presentation, call 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006.
In terms of the Caution: I Might Bite campaign, various promotional items are being distributed in the area. In addition, the ‘Yellow = Caution’ message will be shared across social media and other web platforms. Social media users are encouraged to get involved, by sharing photos of an animal wearing a yellow ribbon or marker if it needs space. Simply tag the Health Unit (@HKPRDHU) or use the hashtags #YellowRibbonDog or #GiveMeSpace.
If someone is bitten by an animal, Ovcharovich encourages individuals to get the pet owner’s contact information. If possible, take a picture of the animal or remember specific features (like markings, collar with tags). This assists the Health Unit in its follow-up investigation to ensure the correct animal is identified. The Health Unit must be notified any time an animal bites or scratches a person. To learn more, call the Health Unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006, or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.