Great Dane not at fault for biting child in Guelph, says public health

The Great Dane that bit a two-year-old child on the face Tuesday afternoon was defending itself, according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. The incident occurred when the animal was approached by the child at a Canada Day celebration.
Public health says a Great Dane, similar to the one pictured, was defending itself when it bit a toddler in Guelph on Canada Day. (Wikimedia Commons)

A Great Dane that bit a two-year-old child on the face Tuesday afternoon was not at fault, according to Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph Public Health. 

The child was playing at Riverside Park during a Canada Day celebration when the incident took place.

Shawn Zentner, a spokesperson for the public health unit, says the child had permission from the dogs owner to pet the animal, but when the child's family came along, the dog felt threatened and nipped at the nearest thing to it.

"All of a sudden the dog is going from dealing with one little person to six or seven other family members approaching them," said Zentner, adding dogs can become defensive when that happens.

"Almost typically, it's the human who's at fault," said Zentner. That's why, when public health investigates a dog bite, they try to get the story from the dog's owner as well as from the person who was bitten. In this case, both parties shared the same story and neither blamed the dog.

Zentner says public health receives hundreds of calls about bites every year and only a few involve a dangerous animal. He says the majority of incidents occur at special events or celebrations.

"We'd probably see more bites on July 1st than other days, just because you're bringing a bunch of people together into a place where people do tend to bring their dogs."

Public health says residents can protect themselves from dog bites by always asking for permission from the owner before petting an animal. It is also a good idea to approach the animal slowly and at its own height, rather than from above. 

As for pet owners, Zentner says they should always have their animal on a leash and under control while in public spaces. During busy events, he also suggests politely declining requests from people to approach their pet.