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The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) is calling for more funding for responsible pet ownership education programs following a spate of dog bite incidents across Australia.

The most tragic recent attack led to the death of a three year old girl in country New South Wales.

"Despite the calls for drastic measures we're hearing in the media at the moment, educating people about responsible pet ownership is the most effective way of stopping these incidents," Dr Mark Lawrie, AVA President said.

"Proper training and learning social skills are crucial for dogs, and we as owners must be the ones in charge of making sure our pets are taught to relate well to family, friends and strangers.

"It's vital to make sure we never leave children, particularly those under five years of age, alone with any dog. Research indicates that there is a higher risk of dog bites in young children, especially toddlers, even with dogs that are well known to the family.

"Dogs can become highly excited when they are being hugged, kissed and teased by small children and high-pitched voices can further lift their agitation.

"Any dog will react when they feel threatened or frightened and they respond in a way that is normal for them - to strike out and bite," Dr Lawrie said.

"The answer doesn't lie in banning specific types of dogs but in educating people from an early age to take proper care and responsibility for their animals.

"We need to learn to read a dog's body language and see the signs that indicate it is time to separate yourself and children away from an agitated dog. And owners need to be responsible and make sure dogs are under their control at all times.

"These must be the basic requirements for anyone who is serious about preventing these tragic events which can permanently harm, or worse, lead to the death, of our children."

Australian Veterinary Association

Last Update: 04/03/09 12:10 Views: 3932

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