13 Jun Do What’s Right, Avoid the Bite!
Preventing Dog Bites in Elementary Aged Children in Lee County
By Nicole Ferguson-Morrison, DVM, MS, MPH, MRCVS
Veterinarian, Lee County Domestic Animal Services
Dog bites are a frightening experience for anyone, especially children. Dog bites in Lee County happen most frequently to children age 10 or younger, and most often involve their own pet or a family member’s pet. The SW Florida Community Foundation granted Lee County Domestic Animal Services (LCDAS) a $34,000 Community Impact Grant aimed at developing a dog bite prevention program to reduce the number dog bites to children in the county. The creation of the “Do What’s Right, Avoid the Bite!” dog bite prevention program will enable us to present educational material to children, parents, and educators in a fun and interactive way using PowerPoint presentations, games and workbooks. The program will be initiated this summer through the Lee County Summer Camps program and Library System.
In addition to our dog bite prevention program, another important aspect of the program is ensuring that dogs and cats receive rabies vaccinations as required by Florida State Law. Many persons with pets are unaware of the state’s requirement for rabies vaccination and, through part of the grant funds, Animal Services will provide 800 free rabies vaccinations during our monthly rabies vaccination clinics to owned dogs and cats in the community.
Through the Community Impact Grant, the SW Florida Community Foundation has been instrumental in allowing us to address this important public health issue in young children. A sustainable dog bite prevention program is essential to reducing the number of preventable dog bites in the community, with the assistance of family members and educators. Animal Services has incorporated the use of Trusty, our in-house mascot, in helping spread the word to all children and their families.
By incorporating the following steps, Trusty will teach you to avoid dog bites and spread this important message to friends and family:
- Teach yourself and others how to avoid dog bites.
- Respect all dogs.
- Understand signs that a dog may bite.
- Safety around dogs will prevent a bite.
- Think before you act around a dog.
- You can help prevent dog bites.
LCDAS is proud to be part of the grantee tribe this year. This experience has allowed our organization insight into how the SW Florida Foundation assists the grantees achieve our goals, including participating in the University of Florida’s Center for Public Interest Communications’ Frank Academy during the tribe retreat on April 27, 2018. The information gathered during the tribe retreat was truly a one of a kind experience which has provided us with resources to “use communications to drive social change”. Creating a sustainable dog bite prevention program to address our next generation was a key goal for our agency, becoming a reality thanks to the Southwest Florida Community Foundation.
This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2018 competitive grant cycle. We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $5.4 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of $115 million, it has provided more than $71 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. Currently, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are located off College Parkway in South Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County) and downtown Fort Myers. For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.