Pets can be an integral part of our lives. Some benefits of pet ownership have been identified in areas of child development, family harmony and health. However, babies and young children can be at risk of being bitten by animals, as they have limited understanding of animal behaviour.
Dogs and children
Children under the age of five are most at risk of dog bite injuries from their family or a friend's dog. Incidents are commonly triggered by a child's interaction with the dog such as playing or approaching the dog while it is sleeping or eating.
Safety tips for pets and other animals
- Always supervise children when they are near any dogs/pets or other animals. Older siblings should not be relied upon to supervise younger children as children are not capable of such responsibility.
- Teach children how to approach and behave around dogs/pets and other animals.
- Check with the owner if it is okay to pat the dog/pets and other animals.
- Hand washing after any activity involving a dog/pets and other animals is important.
Minimising the risk of dog bites
You can reduce the risk of dog bites and other injuries by closely supervising children and dogs when they are together. Supervision ideally means one adult for the dog and one adult for the child.
Many dog bites occur when children are playing around dogs. Discourage rough and inappropriate play, as this may over excite, upset, frighten or hurt the dog.
Children should be taught not to approach a dog that is eating or gnawing on a bone. Feeding the dog is not a child's responsibility. This is because correct dog nutrition is important and also because dogs may become protective of their food or bones.
Teach children not to approach a sleeping dog. If you need to wake the dog, call the dog from a distance to allow it time to become orientated.
Adults must supervise children at all times around pets and other animals.
Cats and children
Cats can be important to a child's social and brain development. Like dogs, there are certain cat behaviours that require supervision.
Cats like sleeping in warm places and a baby's sleep space can be the perfect place. To minimise this risk, having a screen door fitted to the room the baby sleeps in. This can be used in addition to adult supervision.
Hand washing after any activity involving the cat is important.
Always supervise children when they are near any cats or other animals.
Cats are naturally shy creatures, check with the owner if it is alright for your child to approach the cat.