Children between the ages of 5 to 9 – especially boys – are at the most risk of being bitten by an animal. This information can seem daunting and scary to parents, but there are a lot of tools that you can teach your children to help them be safe around animals:
1. Never touch or approach a strange animal without its owner’s permission.
Children are fascinated by animals: words like “cat” and “dog” are usually among the first that we learn as kids, and animals and children often share a love of play. It is important that your children understand that not all animals like to play or be petted and that they should always ask for an owner’s permission before approaching an animal. If an animal is without an owner, children should steer clear of it.
2. Always be gentle when interacting with an animal.
Kids who haven’t been taught otherwise may try to roughhouse with or pull at the fur of a cat or dog. Make sure to teach your children the correct way to pet an animal: slowly, with a flat, open hand. If an animal growls or seems to dislike being touched, your child should remove his or her hand and back away from the animal.
3. Do not run if a strange animal approaches you.
You can teach your child when and how to approach an animal, but what should they do if an animal approaches them? If there is an owner present, they should ask the owner whether the animal is friendly. If the animal is making your child uncomfortable, he or she should voice their concern and ask the owner to take the animal someplace else. If the animal approaches without its owner, your child should not run. Instead, he or she should avoid making eye contact with the animal, back away slowly, and not make any sudden movements. Running or making sudden motions could make your child a target for an aggressive animal.
4. Give animals their space.
Do not approach an animal when it is preoccupied with food or a toy. It may feel that it is being threatened by the loss of its personal items. Do not come between a mother animal and her babies. And never enter an animal’s personal space – crates and animal beds are off-limit areas.