Animal Safety

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Pets are not toys. At times, even friendly dogs and cats can bite and scratch if approached in a threatening way. 

A pet bird, reptile, or hamster can also bite or scratch. Young children are especially at risk.
 
Talk to your child about respecting animals and knowing how to handle them can reduce this risk.

Recognizing signs of a potentially dangerous animal

A cat will make itself look big by arching its back and raising its fur. A cat may also hiss and push its ears back. 

A dog’s back fur will stick up as will the fur on its tail, it will push its ears back and it may growl and show its teeth.

When in the wild

It is exciting to see animals in the wild. But please teach your child to not pursue wild animals and not to feed them. They may be carriers of rabies.

Their reaction to strangers is unpredictable and they may attack if they are approached.

What your child should know

Having a pet can be a wonderful experience for the entire family. Help your child learn about animals by teaching the following: 
  • Before he/she pats a dog, ask the owner about the dog’s nature.
  • Not to run away from an unknown animal. Move away slowly, giving the animal plenty of space.  
  • Tell a parent or other adult about stray or threatening animals.
  • Avoid animals he/she doesn’t know, animals that seem sick or afraid, or animals with babies.
  • Never hide an animal bite. Bites can be serious and require immediate medical attention. Tell an adult right away.  
  • Leave pets alone when they are sleeping or eating.  
  • Never play biting or attacking games with a pet.

Advice to parents

  • Remember to supervise your child near pets and animals at all times and follow the same recommendations yourself.
  • New puppies are popular holiday gifts for children but dog bites are common during the holiday season. Remember, pets are not toys, be informed.
  • If you are about to acquire a pet, try to find out some information about the animal and its breed.
 

Reviewed by Trauma specialists at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Last updated: July 2013, September 2015,