Health unit works to clamp down on rising dog bite incidents

The local health unit continues to urge pet owners to take steps to help stop a problem that hits too often close to home.

“Our animal bites have gone through the roof in the last five years,” said Richard Ovcharovich, manager of health protection with Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit during the March 17 board of health meeting.

In 2021, the health unit investigated 604 animal exposure incidents. This is up slightly from the 599 animal bites that were reported in Haliburton County, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes in 2020 but down significantly from the 672 animal bites reported the year previous.

Ovcharovich noted the ongoing increases – even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic – present a concerning trend, especially given the possible exposure to rabies, and underscores the importance of ongoing education and awareness.

To this end, said Ovcharovich, all environmental health staff have received the All Dogs Can Bite dog bite prevention training and Keep Bites at Bay presentations, which are tied to the school curriculum, were made to 146 elementary students in Grades 1 to 7 during 2021 .

The concerns are not just limited to dogs, though, explained Ovcharovich.

Of the 20 animal specimens submitted for rabies testing, there were seven bats, two raccoons, one wolf and one horse. Fortunately, all tested negatives for rabies.

However, 47 people did receive post-exposure prophylaxis (rabies vaccine) at area hospitals, including 22 at the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay and 18 in Northumberland County; five at Campbellford Memorial Hospital and 13 at Northumberland Hills Hospital.

In addition to awareness, the health unit continues to enforce legislation regarding the vaccination of pets against rabies. Last year two tickets were issued to pet owners for failing to do this.

Ovcharovich is hopeful the annual low-cost rabies clinics hosted by area veterinarian clinics – which had been canceled for the last two years due to the pandemic – will move ahead this year.

If a bite or scratch does occur, the health unit must be notified. People are encouraged to get the pet owner’s contact information and, if possible, take a picture of the animal or remember specific features such as markings and if they were wearing a collar with tags. This assists the health unit in its follow-up investigation to ensure the correct animal is identified.

To learn more, contact the health unit at 1-866-888-4577, ext. 5006, or visit www.hkpr.on.ca.