Child Safety and Animals

Dogs

It doesn't matter how friendly a dog is, any dog has the ability to bite a child. Most at risk are children under five during play, whilst the dog is sleeping or eating.

Reduce the risk to your child by:

Supervising your children around dogs;
Teaching them to leave dogs alone when they are eating or sleeping;
Never letting children approach an unfamiliar dog;
When patting a dog, they need to be calm and gentle;
When approached by a strange dog, teach children to place their arms by their sides, standing completely still with their hands in a fist. They should not scream, run or make eye contact with the dog.

Warning signs that a dog might bite:

Lifting its lip
Growling
Backing away
Raising the hair on its back
Staring at you

What to do if your child is bitten by a dog:

Keep your child calm;
Wash broken skin under cold running water;
Apply antiseptic to the wound and cover the bite with a clean dressing;
Take your child to see a doctor for a tetanus booster and a course of antibiotics.
If your child has a piece of flesh bitten off, call an ambulance.
Control any bleeding with firm pressure to the wound with a sterile dressing or clean cloth whilst waiting for the ambulance.
If your child becomes drowsy or pale, lay them down and raise their legs.
Do not give your child anything to eat or drink.

Cats

When treated gently and responsibly cats can make great pets. However, cats can scratch or bite children - especially if they feel threatened: cats should not be allowed into a cot as they can accidentally suffocate a baby; children should not be allowed to play with litter trays and pregnant women can get toxoplasmosis by cleaning out soiled trays.

Birds

Children should always wash their hands after touching birds as they are at a high risk of developing parrot fever. The symptoms of parrot fever are similar to the flu but involve a very high temperatures, which can lead to convulsions, its medical name is Psittacosis.

Snakes

Snakes and other reptiles can be dangerous with some bites being deadly. Children should be taught to avoid walking in long grass and bush land without protective footwear and long trousers. Trousers should be tucked into socks to prevent bites on feet and ankles. If a snake or reptile appears stay as still as possible until it moves away. Do not handle or provoke it as this is what causes them to bite. Even in this country we have venomous Adders but more people die from wasp or bee stings. 

If your child has been bitten by a snake:

Keep your child as calm and still as possible;
Apply a pressure bandage and splint to the affected limb;
Take your child to the nearest hospital as quickly as possible - describing the snake if possible.

I don't mean to put the hibberdy jibberdys up you, or scare you unnecessarily; after all, this is what I do for a living and nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing children engage inquisitively with animals, watching their confidence grow and witnessing their sheer delight. But, we as adults must guide children to care for our animals' environments, their feelings and their needs. Ignorance can lead to terrible but ultimately preventable situations, especially as most animals only react to our behaviour.