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Dog safety classes for HB DHB staff

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Practical ways to avoid being bitten by dogs are being taught to Hawke’s Bay District Health Board staff.

"It is unavoidable that many of the DHB staff, including district nurses, renal dialysis staff, physios, occupational therapists, and elderly support providers are visiting home where dogs live," said HBDHB executive director people and quality Kate Coley.

The health board’s safety and wellbeing team had approached the Napier and Hastings council’s dog control teams for training to give staff practical ways to keep themselves safe during home visits.

Eight hour-long sessions across the two districts have been held over four weeks, at varying times to ensure as many staff as possible could attend. So far 76 people had taken advantage of the training with that number expected to grow to 100 by the end of the year.

At a Hastings session, Hastings District Council animal control officers Kelly King and Dave Morris said their advice really was "common sense", but that could be easy to forget during an encounter with an aggressive dog.

The advice included checking for signs of a dog (chew toys, dog bowls etc) before entering a property, if a dog looked to be tied up gauging how long the lead is, carrying a heavy folder or bag to hold in front of the animal (a dog looking to attack will almost always latch onto the thing closest to its face, especially if it is moving), and firmly requesting that the owner put any dogs away, even if the owner insists the animal is safe.

"The dog is doing its job by protecting its family and they live with it all the time. That does not mean it will be safe with you," Ms King told the health teams.

The presentation also included easy-to-follow guides on reading a dog’s body language.

Hawke’s Bay District Health Board clinical nurse specialist transplant co-ordinator Merryn Jones attended the workshop and said she came away from it "knowing what to do, as much as what not to do".

"My take-home is that taking preventative action is the best approach: When you’re making the appointment ask if there is a dog on the property and if there is, asking that the dog be secured away before you visit.

"The information on what to do if you are caught out was good too. If you encounter an aggressive dog, use your bag, folder or even a hat to put between you and the dog - and never turn your back on it."

Hastings District Council regulatory solutions manager John Payne, who has Principles of Canine Behaviour qualifications, said Council offered the free Dog Bite Prevention Programme to "any group that wants to benefit from it".

"We have lots of people in our community who, for a range of reasons, need to enter properties where there is a dog, which may see you as a threat to its family. We focus on things you can do to make sure you are safe."

Ms Coley said the courses had been very well-received by staff and the safety and wellbeing team would hold more next year.

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