The Importance of Pet Safety & Responsible Pet Ownership
The importance of Pet Safety and Responsible Pet Ownership for kids is something that Wagging Right Founder, Kelly Cancelmo has been deeply passionate about since a very young age. For over 18 years Kelly has been working with families and their pets to keep them safe, happy, and well-behaved, which includes teaching kids about pet safety. Kelly is a CPDT-KA Certified Dog Trainer, a Certified Canine Nutritionist, a business owner, and a wife, and a mother of two. She founded Wagging Right in 2021, with the primary goal to help educate parents and their children on the importance of pet safety and responsible pet ownership.
There are approximately 4.7 million dog bites every year in the U.S., and it’s believed this estimate is low. The U.S. population has exceeded 328 million, which means 1 in 73 people will be bit by a dog.Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
This is even more concerning when you consider the fact that…
The American Veterinary Medical Association states that the highest rate of dog bites is in children under 9 and that most dog bites affecting young children occur during everyday activities and while interacting with familiar dogs. The vast majority of biting dogs (77%) belong to the victim’s family or a friend.American Veterinary Medical Assosciation (AVMA) and Center For Disease Control (CDC)
The importance of these statistics to me, can only really be explained by telling my own personal story.
A Personal Story
They say you should face your fears head-on. To me, that statement has several different meanings but does help to shape and define my journey into the pet industry. It was 1987, and I was 6 years old, playing with my brother, who was less than a year younger than me, and our two new family members, Ginger and Fred (named after Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire), two one-year-old, siblings, yellow lab mixes that our family adopted. This is where things get a little blurry and if you asked my brother and me how exactly it went down, you would get some variations in our story, but we were playing with the dogs and giving them rawhides (this was acceptable to give a dog back then), and Fred, the sweet male lab, I loved oh so very much, bit me. Not a small bite, not just drew blood, he bite me in the face and tore the bottom of my face off. There was a hole in my cheek and what was once my bottom lip and simply dangling from my face, and I was covered in blood.
At the age of 6, I was a child dog bite victim. I was one of the stats, in fact, I was an example of all the worst stats. I was one of the 77% of children bitten by a dog they knew, that suffered severe injury to their face, that would require multiple surgeries. And it all happened by one of the breeds of dogs that were considered the least statistically likely to do that.
From there I only remember a few bits and pieces. I remember my parents wrapping a towel around my face and rushing me out to our wood-paneled station wagon and sitting on my moms’ lap as my father drove us to Paoli Memorial Hospital. My next memory was waking up in a hospital bed, coming out of the haze of anesthesia, and through the bright lights of the hospital room and I can remember the blurry, yet familiar, faces of my family looking down at me.
Thousands of stitches later, I realized, I had just undergone my first of what would be several plastic surgeries to repair the damage done to my face from a dog bite. I was lucky enough to have Dr. James Fox, who later went on to become the Director of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia perform my surgery. He meticulously pulled my chin up and turned it into my bottom lip. One side of my mouth was sewn shut and while I remember being so incredibly thirsty and asking for water, it was then that I realized I couldn’t drink or eat anything as the pain was unbearable.
Fast Forward to Today
Fast forward 30 years, and I can say without question, that I have “faced” my fears head-on. I am a Certified Dog Trainer (CPDT-KA) as well as a Certified Canine Nutritionist. I own a business in the pet industry, and I specialize in working with bully breeds, dog reactivity, and aggression. I am a pit bull owner and lover and have owned many large breed dogs over the years, particularly Mastiffs.
All in all, I had gone through life without letting my scars either mentally or physically get in my way. Sure, I have never worn lipstick because I felt it only emphasized my scars, and every time I see someone post on social media a picture of their kid with their face right up to the dog’s face, saying how cute it is, I want to scream, but those are little things. I graduated from college, obtained my MBA from a top school, married the man of my dreams, and had two amazing boys.
It wasn’t till I had my two boys, who are now 2 and 4, that the trauma I experienced when I was 6 really came back and hit me right in the gut. Since they were born, I always had their safety in mind, particularly in regard to my work which often involved them being introduced to client’s dogs. I was not going to let my kids become part of the statistics. Teaching my own kids about pet safety and responsible pet ownership needed to be a priority in our home. I spent much time training the dogs I was working with as well as my own kids on how to communicate and respect one another. And like, any kids, mine are not perfect, I still need to remind them, particularly when it comes to remembering other people’s dogs are different than ours.
During COVID, Emergency Room visits associated with dog bites increased 300%.Journal of Pediatrics
Most recently with the pandemic, and the rise in pet ownership and adoption it caused, there is more a need now more than ever, to not only properly train dogs but train all the pet’s family members. During COVID, Emergency Room visits associated with dog bites increased 300% (Journal of Pediatrics). Parents need to understand the importance of making sure their children behave in a respectful manner to the dog and the children need to know how to be dog safe and responsible pet owners themselves. This starts with education in pet safety and responsible pet ownership. Even the most well-trained dog can be pushed into situations where they feel the need to protect themselves.
That is where the idea for Wagging Right stemmed from. Wagging Right is a company offering resources for the training and education required for all family members, including the four-legged ones to have a happy and healthy relationship with one another built on the foundation of communication, respect, and confidence.