Preventable Dog Bites to Children in Canada Will Continue
Campbellville ON, June 9, 2010 – The recent fatal dog attack to an infant in Quebec and near-fatal attack to a child in Alberta last month were completely preventable according to experts. Coroners’ inquest recommendations into previous child deaths from dog attacks have pointed to public education as an important element in preventing future tragedy. Doggone Safe urges the media, educators, veterinarians and health-care providers to play an active role in educating parents, dog owners and children about how to be safe around dogs.
According to Health Canada statistics, dog bites are the fifth to sixth leading cause of injuries requiring emergency room treatment in children of various age ranges. It is estimated that more than 400,000 people are bitten by dogs in Canada each year. Health Canada reports that most of the victims are children and that the most common bite site is the face. Most bites are caused by the family dog or another dog known to the child and occur at a family home. These statistics are consistent with the view of dog behaviour experts that the vast majority (if not all) dog bites to children are completely preventable.
The coroner’s jury inquest into the 1998 fatal attack on 8-year old Courtney Trempe of Stouffville ON made several recommendations for public education to help prevent dog bites to children. Similar recommendations have been made by coroners in subsequent fatal maulings in Canada.
Kerry Vinson, dog behaviour specialist and Ontario government expert witness in dog aggression cases, had this to say:
“In addition to many serious injuries, in the last decade there have been 4 fatalities due to dog attacks just in the province of Ontario alone. These fatalities were totally preventable, as are almost all dog bites. Education for the public in general, and dog owners in particular, should be a focus for the government as well as the media. However, the majority of the recommendations from [the Trempe] Inquest aimed at preventing future serious dog attacks have not been implemented. As a result, it would appear to be only a matter of time before further fatal and non-fatal attacks will occur. As the majority of victims involved in these incidents are children, it would seem that the responsible approach to reducing these occurrences is to publicize ways to prevent them, instead of reporting about them after they've already happened.”In keeping with these recommendations non-profit Doggone Safe urges the media, educators, veterinary professionals and health-care providers to play an active role in educating parents, dog owners and children about how to be safe around dogs:
- Media: Include a tip for parents and/or dog owners from a dog behaviour expert about how to prevent future occurrences when reporting on dog bite stories. Provide information about bite prevention in lifestyle and health reports.
- Educators: Incorporate the study of basic dog body language into the pet-related part of the existing curriculum. Incorporate the “Be a Tree” message into the injury-prevention part of the curriculum.
- Veterinary Professionals: Provide counseling for new and expectant parents on the importance of never leaving a baby or toddler alone with any dog ever. Recommend obedience training and provide educational materials for all puppy owners. Provide dog safety messages to clients in the form of posters in waiting areas, handouts and individual counseling with respect to supervision and the importance of standing still if a dog is threatening or is too frisky. Point out canine stress signals observed during examinations so that dog owners can watch for these in relation to children interacting with the dog.
- Health Care Professionals: Provide counseling for new and expectant parents on the importance of never leaving a baby or toddler alone with any dog ever. Provide dog safety messages to patients in the form of posters in waiting areas, handouts and individual counseling with respect to supervision and the importance of standing still if a dog is threatening or is too frisky.
Doggone Safe has experts in dog training, dog behavior and dog bite prevention education available for interview.
The not-for-profit Doggone Safe mandate is based on jurors recommendations following an inquest into the mauling death of 8 year old Courtney Trempe in Ontario, Canada. Along with their many educational programs, Doggone Safe also provides victim support and administers the Courtney Trempe Memorial fund, in honor of her memory, to help provide trauma counseling (not provided by insurance) for child dog bite victims and their families.
Visit www.doggonesafe.com for more information and www.be-a-tree.com for information about the Be a Tree program.
Joan Orr, President
2295 Mohawk Trail
Campbellville ON L0P 1B0