QUEENSBURY -- In an eight-day span last summer, shortly after the school year ended, Queensbury Animal Control Officer Jim Fitzgerald handled 13 cases where people were bitten by dogs in Queensbury.
A number of the victims were children and, as he reviewed the circumstances of the bites, one thing became clear: Many of them did not know how to recognize signs that dogs were alarmed or preparing to be aggressive.
So when Fitzgerald had an opportunity to meet with Queensbury School Superintendent Doug Huntley last fall as the school campus dealt with myriad bear problems, Fitzgerald pitched an educational program through the school to try to cut down on dog bites.
With help from the town’s insurance broker, Marshall & Sterling Upstate Inc., which was looking for ways to cut down on insurance claims related to bites, Fitzgerald and school officials have put together an interactive school program that it is hoped will teach young children how to recognize signs that a dog may be dangerous.
Fitzgerald said the initial presentations will be about a half-hour and will involve the school’s 235 kindergarteners. There will be educational materials for kids to take home to their parents, he said.
“We’ll show them when to approach a dog and how to recognize signs that a dog is in distress,” Fitzgerald said. “If the ears go back, don’t go near them.”
Huntley said he believes the program will be beneficial, and the school may extend it to first-graders as well.
“I was surprised and alarmed by the statistics he (Fitzgerald) had,” Huntley said. “Based on that, we decided we wanted to do whatever we could to help.”
Queensbury Town Clerk Darlene Dougher, who oversees the animal control program, said the program will be a good one that she hopes can expand to cover other school districts that Queensbury children attend, such as Lake George and Glens Falls. She likened it to the fire safety programs that fire departments bring to schools each year.
Learning a few simple rules about dog behavior can help kids avoid trouble, Dougher said.
Huntley said the first presentation will be held May 20. Fitzgerald said he may try to incorporate his trained service dog into the presentation if school officials consent.