Yellow ribbon on a pet says, “Yo, People Person, Give me some space!”

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.

‘Keep Bites at Bay’ is the message the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPRDHU) wants to promote to pet owners and families with young children this summer. During the warm weather months, 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,” says Richard Ovcharovich, Manager of Health Protection with HKPR District Health Unit. “This is a concerning trend, especially given the possible exposure to rabies.”

In 2020, there were 599 animal bites reported in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes. In the previous year, there were 672 animal bites reported.

Ovcharovich encourages all parties 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 says. “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.”

To better reach children, the Health Unit has developed an animal-bites prevention classroom resource and activity that is tied to the school curriculum. HKPRDHU is reaching out to local educators interested in using the resource, and starting this week and into June, Public Health Inspectors will begin presenting it virtually to students in classrooms that have expressed interest.

Ovcharovich says 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 says. “Owners should pay extra close attention if children are nearby.”

The Health Unit is also promoting the Yellow Ribbon campaign locally. It’s an international effort to encourage people to use yellow ribbons to show a pet (usually a dog) needs space. “Tying a yellow ribbon onto a dog’s leash or collar means not to pet the animal, as it needs space for a reason,” Ovcharovich says. “Yellow ribbons don’t always mean the animal is aggressive. It could also indicate the dog needs space because it is nervous, grumpy, in training, or recovering from surgery.”

If a bite does occur, Ovcharovich encourages people 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

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This Google image page is fun to check out if you want to see different styles for your dog.

supplied content/image from youtubeyellowribbondogproject

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