DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) is advocating for more community caution with animals, after reporting a large number of bite investigations.
“From January to August 2020, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit has investigated 433 animal bite incidents in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. With just under four months left on the 2020 calendar, the Health Unit is on pace to surpass more than 600 animal bites investigations for the second straight year,” read an HKPR press release, posted on Monday, September 14th. “In 2019, the Health Unit recorded a total of 672 animal bites in its region, the highest total in five years.”
The majority of these bites have been from pets or other domestic animals, according to the local health unit. “If we spend more time around our pets and domestic animals than we do with those in the wild, this leaves us and our loved ones with a higher risk of bites, scratches and rabies exposure from animals that are literally near and dear to us,” Richard Ovcharovich, HKPR’s Manager of Health Protection, stated in the press release. “
Due to these rising numbers, the health unit is starting an awareness campaign for pet owners, called ‘Keep Bites at Bay.’ “Through the campaign, the Health Unit is encouraging parents to teach children how to safely act and behave towards their own pets and other domestic animals. These lessons include: being kind and gentle, staying calm, and never yelling or screaming. If an animal is growling or showing any aggression, children should be taught to back away slowly, to gain distance from it, and avoid direct eye contact. Never turn around and run,” read the press release. “Pet owners should also be responsible by making sure their animals are leashed, under control, and discouraged from running free unless they are in a designated dog park. Owners should also pay close attention if children are nearby. Owners also need to regularly get their pets vaccinated for rabies.”
Mr. Ovcharovich has a recommendation for pet owners. “Never leave young children alone with an animal, even if it’s a pet. Children may not know better, and start to rile or incite even friendly animals to act out and attack,” he stated.
For more information on the campaign or for tips when dealing with animal bites, go online to www.hkpr.on.ca/2019/02/12/animal-bites/.