Be Kind Belize is a humane education programme and part of the programme does, indeed, teach kindness and compassion towards animals and other humans. According to the Humane Education, "Humane education provides accurate information about the issues of our time so that people have the information they need to understand the consequences of their decisions. It fosters curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking, so that people can evaluate information and solve problems. It instills reverence, respect, and responsibility, so that people have the motivation to face challenges and to act with integrity and it offers positive choices that benefit oneself, other people, the animals, and the Earth, so that people are empowered to create a more humane world."

A big part of the programme is about personal responsibility, whether that is for oneself, a sibling, a friend, an animal or the environment. We talk a lot about consequences too.

One of the units is focused on 'Dog Safety'. This is a very important unit as it not only helps to prevent children from being hurt by a dog in an accident, but it teaches them about their own responsibilities when dealing with dogs.

There are some interesting facts that the children learn as part of this. For example, children (and adults) are far more likely to be bitten by their own dog or a dog they know. Bites caused by unknown dogs (or dogs the children have not interacted with) are fairly rare. Most children have been bitten by a dog by the time they are ten years old. Other important facts to be aware of include: Most adults don't know what happened when a child is bitten because there was no adult present. There is no such thing as an 'unprovoked attack' - you might not think you did anything to provoke a bite, but the dog clearly did. Most dogs have given numerous warnings about their behaviour, that have been ignored, before they bite a person.

Teaching children appropriate behaviour around dogs to reduce the risk that they might accidentally provoke a bite is very important. But even more important is teaching them how to keep safe when they are under a threat of being bitten. Unfortunately, they hear a lot of unhelpful and dangerous advice from other places. Stare the dog down, being one of the most concerning. Dogs bite because they are either trained to do so (intentionally or not) or because they feel threatened. Dogs feel threatened by a whole bunch of things that humans often fail to acknowledge and they are far more likely to feel threatened if they have not been properly socialised and habituated before the age of 14 weeks.

The advice we give children is relevant to adults as well. I've seen a lot of information here about confrontational methods. I used to give lectures on life threatening attacks by dogs. I worked with the police and courts assessing dogs that had been involved in extremely serious incidents - some involving the death of a person. By analysing attacks within the context of dog behaviour, we can learn a lot from these horrible accidents.

So, here is some advice that may help you and will certainly help a child if they find themselves in a tricky situation with a dog or dogs.

1. Never stare at a dog. Dogs, particularly dogs that are stressed or anxious (as are most dogs that bite) find direct eye contact threatening and in some cases an aggressive challenge. For children, in particular, who have no hope of physically intimidating a dog, staring is a very dangerous thing to do. Unfortunately, most people are inclined to stare when they are frightened, so it is something we have to consciously think of.

2. Never run - unless you can 100% guarantee you are faster than the dog. Dogs are descended from the predatory wolf and many have been selectively bred to be highly motivated by movement and chases (Border Collies and Terriers are two examples of this). Movement stimulates the innate chase instinct in many dogs.

3. Stand very still, don't shout, scream or wave your arms around.

4. Try to keep side on to the dog at all times. Again, this is a very non threatening position to take.

5. If you are on a bike and you think you are likely to be chased, get off the bike, put it between you and the dog and walk.

6. If you are taken by surprise by a dog that chases you on a bike, don't try to outrun it unless you know you can absolutely do it. The last thing you want is to be running or cycling away from a dog and to fall. So stop, try to ignore the dog. Use the bike as protection between you and the dog and then slowly walk away.

If you decide to physically confront the dog, make sure that you are absolutely able to follow it through because you may just trigger an even more serious incident than there would have been in the first place. If a dog is confident in its aggression (don't confuse this for not being anxious - anxiety is what triggers the need to defend, but dogs who have successfully used aggression in the past to defend themselves become more and more confident with its use) then it is likely to take you up on your challenge.

If you are attacked or bitten - stay on your feet. That is the single most important thing in terms of survival of a serious dog attack. Try to get anything - a door, a gate, anything between you and the dog and don't run!

Finally, SAGA Humane Society has been given special powers to deal with cruelty and dog bites in San Pedro. Please report your concerns to them and follow it through with them. They will investigate and take action in conjunction with the proper authorities when necessary.

Please make sure to socialise your animals and your children well, so that they don't come into any harm when they associate with each other.

“What wisdom can you find that is greater than kindness?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau