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County "BARK" Helps Protect Against Bites

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teaching dog

November 7, 2008

It can happen at the park, or while walking to school or playing in the yard: a strange dog wanders up to a child.

Would your child know what to do?

Children who have been visited at school by the County’s Department of Animal Services would.

(Watch the presentation given by Animal Control Officers.)

They’d know how to read a dog’s body language to gauge whether it was scared, angry or happy. And they’d know, if the dog was aggressive, to stand like a tree and not make eye contact. And if knocked down, they’d pretend to be a rock until the dog lost interest and left them alone.

“Many of our dog bites are kids, so we’re really concerned about safety with children,” Animal Control Lt. Dan DeSousa said.

Through its BARK Dog Bite Prevention Program, Animal Services provides free visits to schools and community centers around the county.

“Our goal is not to scare children, but to teach them how to give space to a dog, and how to respect that dog. Our behaviors can encourage a dog to bite, or they can bring out the best in a dog,” DeSousa said.

Last year, more than 2,000 dog bites were reported to Animal Services. Most dog bites can be prevented, simply by knowing how to act safely in situations involving dogs.

Through BARK – which stands for Be Aware, Responsible and Kind – children learn not to:
• Stick their hands through a fence or a car window to pet a dog.
• Approach a sleeping or eating dog.
• Run from an aggressive dog.
• Play tug-of-war; it’s harmful to the dog and teaches it to take items from humans.

More information about the BARK program for parents, kids and educators can be found online, and a video about the program is available here.

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