The Edmundston Police Force recently teamed up with the Saint-Basile Scouts to increase efforts to limit the number of cases of bites from dogs and other animals.
According to statistics from the Canadian Hospital Injury Prevention and Reporting System, more than half of the victims of dog bites in the country are children between 1 and 9 years old.
In Edmundston, Constable Pierre Schelling of the local police force launched a prevention program for primary school children in January 2020.
The goal was first and foremost to go around the schools to share information with young people in 4th and 5th grade, although we also catered to specific groups.
According to Schelling, children at this age are often more ruthless or behave more casually around these animals.
“They’re small, and they have their noses everywhere, so they expose themselves to it more.”
Although his early efforts were affected by the pandemic that struck New Brunswick less than two months later, Constable Schelling said he was motivated to continue working, especially with his recent affiliation with the Boy Scouts.
“There are many bites, and many people live with them and do not talk about them. Together with the scouts, we have developed ways to live well with dogs and cats, regardless of whether it is an animal you know or not.
“When we asked the group the question at the beginning, we were surprised to see that out of about thirty young people, 60% of them had already been bitten by an animal, mostly dogs.”
The young scouts were therefore taught to teach them to take good care of pets and avoid potentially problematic situations. Like all good scouts, they received an emblem to highlight their work.
According to Mr Schelling, the concept could be copied in other scout associations in New Brunswick and elsewhere in Canada.
In the case of scouts, dog bites are not the only danger. As they are encouraged to do activities in the forest, they are also exposed to other wild animals.
‘We talk to them about rabies and what can happen. It puts things in perspective, because they know that if they go into the woods and are scratched by, for example, a raccoon, they must report it immediately, because it can cause infection. “
According to data from the New Brunswick Department of Health, more than 50 people were treated for rabies prevention after an animal bite in 2021. There were about 80 by 2020.
To avoid such a problem, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Energy Development especially urges people not to feed wild animals that can transmit diseases through wounds by scratches or bites.
A difficult problem to solve
While he hopes his prevention program has made it possible to avoid a few unfortunate incidents, Pierre Schelling acknowledges that there are still far too many cases of animal bites in the Madawaska region, as in the rest of Canada.
“We are repeating it everywhere, so in the long run we hope that we will have fewer incidents. Children can be bitten less severely, but there are still more cases of bites. ”
Schelling also believes that COVID-19 and repeated periods of confinement have caused some dogs to experience a more difficult period of socialization, which has resulted in a more intense response to various stimuli.
“The dog is less sociable because he has not seen much. It has increased the societal problem.
But the problem is obviously not new.
“I’ve been raising awareness for 40 years, whether it’s with children or as part of my job, but there’s always been a problem.”
In other cases, the challenge is to train owners to take steps to avoid these types of incidents.
“There is a lack of responsibility among some dog owners. But when such a situation arises and we go to the owners, they will in most cases apologize and ask what they can do to help. But there are always those who do not like to afford. “Sometimes it’s even harder to tell an adult what to do than a child.”
“In Belgium, for example, you have to have a license to own a dog. Here we are far from it. Basically, it would take us that because there are a lot of people who breed their animals completely wrong and it causes unfortunate incidents.