The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit is noticing a worrying trend when it comes to animal bites over the past decade.

The Health Unit’s Manager for Health Protection Richard Ovcharovich says they dealt with 598 animal bites in 2020, down from the 672 they handled in 2019. The number from two years ago was the highest the Health Unit has seen in five years.

He says the rise is concerning because just over a decade ago, the Health Unit was only dealing with 400 to 450 animal bites a year, but that number has been on the rise since. 

“The majority of those incidents involved domestic animals,” Ovcharovich explains about this year’s tally. “It’s predominantly cats and dogs but there are occurrences of people being bitten by someone else’s pet.”

Ovcharovich says most bites are minor but there have been people who have gotten significant ones. “People have lost parts of their fingers,” he explains. “We’ve had individuals lose part of their ear.”

“Never leave young children alone with an animal, even if it’s a pet,” Ovcharovich says. “Children may not know better and start to rile or incite even friendly animals to act out and attack. In a matter of seconds, an animal can bite, scratch or attack a person leading to severe, long-lasting physical and emotional trauma.”

He says the easiest way to avoid animal bites is to keep your distance. Ovcharovich says it’s best to ask permission before petting someone’s dog, even if you know them. That way the owner will be able to get the animal under control if it does react negatively.