There are at least 4.5 million cats and 4 million dogs in Canada. There are an estimated 11.5 million homes and every second one of them has a pet of some kind.

The good news is that most of us regard dogs and cats and other house pets as members of our family. They share our homes and our hearts. They are our friends and our companions and most of them don't ever bite anyone.

The bad news is when they do bite, dogs are usually the pets that deliver the most severe bites, and children are the ones most often hurt, or sometimes even killed.

The Humane Society of Canada is taking a lead role to try and prevent as many bites as possible, and to reinforce the positive relationship which has existed between humans and dogs for thousands of years.

However, since dog bites take place under a wide range of circumstances and for a wide range of reasons, we need to add a word of caution here. There are no hard and fast rules about how to prevent dog bites or even how to stop an attack from resulting in serious injury or even death. For these reasons, The Humane Society of Canada accepts no liability for any use or application of this information.

We also need to advise you that by law, you are required to report every single animal bite to the Medical Officer of Health in your area.

Children have the kind of energy most of us still wish we had. And they love to play.

While dogs have a very acute sense of hearing and a well developed sense of smell, they do not see as well as humans do, and they do not see colours, only shades of greys, whites and black. While some breeds have been identified statistically as causing more bites, we do not believe that simply passing breed specific legislation as some countries and jurisdictions have done will accomplish what people are trying to do - namely prevent the frequency and severity of dog bites.

For example, say an American Pit Bull Terrier bites someone. Is this dog, because of its size, tenacity and breed, likely to cause more damage? The answer is likely, yes.

On the other hand, can a Scottish Terrier cause harm to a six month old child that still hasn't learned to walk? The answer is also likely, yes.

The reason why breed specific legislation doesn't work is just like telling a child that when they cross the street they need to really watch out for a truck, but you also need to tell them about the small cars.

Having said this, people who own, or who are aware of larger, more powerful dogs need to be aware that the potential for physical harm is much greater should this type of dog bite someone - and they need to take extra precautions.

Unfortunately, many children accidentally cause some dogs to attack, either from their games or by simply playing with one another. Anyone who has been around children know that these games are accompanied by yelling, screaming, laughter, running, jumping, and rough housing.

Some children will also try to encourage their own family dog, or a neighbour's dog, to join in the fun. They may crawl on the ground and make animal noises, or they may rough house with the dog, making sudden jerking movements near the dog's head, ears, side or tail. They may try to do all of these things with a very young dog, with an old dog, a nursing female with puppies, or with a dog that simply wants to be left alone.

The most important thing for everyone to remember is that your dog, or in fact any dog, regards you not as a person, but as another dog. And if another dog teased or challenged or frightened your dog, then the other dog would not likely be surprised if your dog fled, growled, or even bit to make him stop.

We need to find a balance, so that our children, their parents and their relatives can recognize that kids can still have fun and play with dogs. However, we need to be aware that even well intentioned behaviour can result in a bite. The key is awareness and respect for your dog and other dogs - not to instill a fear of dogs in children and adults.