For Immediate Release — May 19, 2009
Veterinary College Helps First Graders Avoid Dog Bites
Rufus helps students learn about dog bite prevention at Inskip Elementary School in Knox County, Tennessee. Photo courtesy of the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Mediciine.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As part of National Dog Bite Prevention Week May 17-23, 2009, the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine and the Knox County School system announced today that every first grader in Knox County has received a free dog bite prevention DVD. Almost 5,000 DVDs were distributed earlier this month. The announcement was made at Inskip Elementary School.
Every year in the United States, approximately 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates almost 800,000 of those bites are serious enough to require medical attention and half of them are to children under 18. Injury rates are highest among children between the ages of 5 and 9. According to Tennessee Department of Health statistics, Knox County has the third highest incidence of people requiring hospital treatment as the result of dog bites. Only Shelby and Davidson counties rank higher.
“Nothing is more seemingly innocent than a child and a dog,” explains Dr. Michael Sims, a professor at the veterinary college. Sims helped create the college’s dog bite prevention initiative, which began in 2000. “Yet, before you can blink, that image can go from something cute and inspiring to tragedy and change a child’s life forever. Dog bites occur every 40 seconds, and many of them are preventable.”
Experts agree. According to the CDC, dog bites are a largely preventable public health problem, and education can help adults and children learn to reduce their chances of being bitten. The lessons on the DVD are built around RUFUS, a rather slow, lovable and approachable spokesdog. Even the letters in his name represent lessons for kids: Respect, Understanding dogs, Friendly dogs, Unfriendly dogs, and Staying away from some dogs. The key is to keep the message simple, non-threatening and fun to learn. Kids, naturally drawn to RUFUS, are taught how to behave around dogs in various situations. Sims says that kids can easily absorb the messages presented in the DVD. “Parental feedback has been positive and indicates children are watching the DVD and are even re-enacting parts of it for siblings and friends.”
Angie Wright is the parent of a first grader who was bitten in the face by a dog last fall. He received four puncture wounds, and the injury, which ran from the corner of his eye to his lip, required 15 stitches. “I wish we had this DVD sooner,” Wright said. “I really feel if he had seen this video, his injury may have been prevented.”
Aneisa McDonald, Knox County Schools’ Coordinated School Health Specialist, says the interactive components of the DVD help educate parents along with their children. “To truly make change, we must all hold hands and work on these initiatives together,” McDonald said. “Changes in behavior happen when parents, teachers, dog owners and children work together in the community.”
In addition to distributing the DVDs, the college also helps re-enforce the dog bite prevention lessons through its Human-Animal Bond in Tennessee (HABIT) program. HABIT, a non-profit group of volunteers, sponsors animal-assisted therapy programs in a variety of settings such as area schools, nursing and retirement homes, assisted-living centers, hospitals, and physical rehabilitation centers.
Financial support from a local plastic surgeon, Dr. Tom Gallaher, and Pet Safe Village made the distribution of the DVDs possible.
For additional information about the dog bite prevention program, visit www.vet.utk.edu/dogbiteprevention.
One of 28 veterinary colleges in the United States, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine educates students in the art and science of veterinary medicine and related biomedical sciences, promotes scientific research and enhances human and animal well-being.
In addition to the programs of the College of Veterinary Medicine, the UT Institute of Agriculture also provides instruction, research and public service through the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT AgResearch system of 10 research and education centers and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.
Sandra Harbison, 865-974-7377, firstname.lastname@example.org