by Valerie Merrifield, education manager, 

As Education Manager for the Kentucky Humane Society, my dogs and I have taught over 30,000 school children throughout Kentuckiana.  I have several topics that I present, but it is my dog safety presentation that is the most dear to me.  Every day in schools, children rush my dogs, touch their tails and try to hug/kiss my dogs.  Every day in schools, I encounter children who have been bitten by a dog.  Today’s school visits were a perfect example: out of the 35 children I visited, three had bruises, marks or stitches from a recent bite to their faces.


Dog bites in children are a silent epidemic in our country and almost all could have been prevented. Every year around 12 million people report dog bites. Out of 12 million, 8 million are children and 4 million of those children KNEW the dog who bit them. That was the case today: all three children were bitten in the face by a known dog.

The reality is that most bites are a result of inappropriate interaction by the child and/or lack of supervision by parents. Sometimes, such interactions are not even perceived as dangerous or stress-inducing to the dog. Just check YouTube—there are many videos of children riding the family dog like a pony, hugging the dog tightly, holding her face, lips or ears as they give the dog kisses. There are videos of babies pulling tails and crawling on the dog. All this is happening as the adults in the room laugh and aim the camera.

As adults, it is our responsibility to keep our children safe and teach them to recognize a dog who is stressed. We also need to teach them how to treat a dog gently. Dogs communicate stress to us, but many do not recognize signals. It is our job to learn these signals to keep everyone safe, children and dogs. Education is the key.

KHS has been offering dog safety classes to classrooms for many years. We are now offering a class for the public, designed for children AND their parents. Careful Kids and Canines is designed to empower children by teaching them the proper ways to interact with the dog and how to recognize what the dog is “saying” with its body. Adults will benefit from this class, as they will learn how to tell when their dog is stressed and sending signals that she needs a break from the children.

Our first class takes place on February 7 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at our East Campus, 1000 Lyndon Lane. A $5 donation per family is encouraged and goes to benefit our mission. Please contact Valerie Merrifield, Education Manager, at 515-3149 or to find out more or sign up for this class.

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