As governments around the country call for a ban on dangerous dog breeds, child safety experts are again warning parents to be careful with pets.
The Australian Vet Association has a policy of allowing one ‘free’ bite before the animal is put down – but it could be that one bite that causes injury, or even death, to your child.
Figures compiled by child safety organisation, Homesafe Kids, and Monash University, show that over 600 children a year are treated in hospital for dog bites. Moreover, child home safety inspections undertaken by HomesafeKids show that 15 per cent of homes do not have adequate dog-child separation.
HomesafeKids spokeswoman, Melissa Abalo, says such incidents are 100 per cent preventable.
“Research indicates that children are more likely to be bitten by a familiar pet, and that children aged 0-4 years are most at risk,” she points out. “Due to the size of children, they are often bitten on the face or mauled with dire consequences.”
Parents can avoid these situations by exercising caution when socialising children with animals, especially when introducing new babies to the home. According to the RSPCA, this integration takes patience, supervision and consistency.
“Allow the excitement of the new arrival to dissipate before introducing them to one another,” says the RSPCA’s Emma Watts. “Always make sure your dog is obedient during introductions and involve both your dog and your baby in fun activities such as walks so your pet relates your baby to positive experiences.”
While observed interaction is important, modifications to living environments can ensure your children’s safety, too. Abalo recommends setting up a space for pets to sleep and eat that is separate from children’s areas, creating a safe zone in which they can play.
“It’s not just about preventing injury, but illness, too. Pets carry germs that can be harmful to young children and contact with their faeces could cause disease,” Abalo says. “Children and animals alike are very curious, so with a little foresight, unfortunate situations can be avoided.”
Ms. Abalo said that HomesafeKids had undertaken over 1, 000 child home safety inspections for new parents and grandparents and was compiling detailed statistics on dangers in homes.
For research data, home inspection checklists and more tips on how to protect children around pets, parents should visit www.homesafekids.com.au or consult their veterinarian.
For media enquiries:
0403 969 693
(03) 9889 0722
1300 88 SAFE