We recommend that the pet remains restrained in the presence of an infant for the first few weeks. If, after three weeks or so, the pet shows acceptable behaviour, it may be unleashed. However, pets must always be supervised in the presence of an infant.
Under no circumstances should a pet be able to sleep in a room with an unattended infant or young child. If your pet normally sleeps inside then close the door of the baby’s room and use a baby monitor. Even if you do not have a cat of your own, be cautious of your baby’s safety both inside and outside your house as neighbourhood cats may also pose a threat.
Potential hazards and problems identified
- Pets can pose a number of hazards. Issues such as tripping, falling, jumping and crushing injuries are more common with infants and young children.
- No animal should be left alone with an infant for any reason. This is not because animals are innately aggressive but rather a baby/child cannot move an animal away if it cuddles up next to them for protection or warmth, which could result in smothering.
- Any child under 10 years of age should not be left to interact alone with pets.
- Predatory aggression is the most common form of aggression shown by dogs to very young infants.
- Aggression caused by fear or pain is frequently associated with older children (18-36 months) as these children are often unco-ordinated and inadvertently hurt the pet.
- Young children should be taught to treat pets gently – no pulling, tugging or pounding.
- Children should not be allowed to play with or touch the dog while it is eating, sleeping or resting. These are times when a child is more likely to get bitten.
Do you have concerns about your pet?
If you have any concerns about your pet’s behaviour before the baby arrives, it is better to identify and address these issues now!
- If you think your dog may be untrustworthy with a baby, for example, if it growls and bites/snaps at strangers or its family, you need to seriously consider whether you can safely manage your dog with a new baby.
- Re-housing the dog would be a far safer option, and possibly the best option if the amount of risk that you are prepared to take is zero.
- As difficult as it might be, more often than not the most responsible decision in these circumstances is euthanasia. Re-housing a pet with concerning problems simply passes the problem and associated risks onto someone else.
- If you need to muzzle your dog you should seriously consider the risk that it poses to your baby – should you be keeping the dog in the household with a baby/child?
- Muzzles may prevent bite injuries but they do not prevent knocking, bruising and other injuries. They may also frustrate the dog to the point where greater damage is done if the opportunity does arise for the dog to attack the child. There is also the risk of the dog getting out of the muzzle.
- Are you prepared to run the risk of serious injury or death of the baby?
Practise good hygiene when handling pets
When caring for pets it is important to minimise both the onset and/or spread of disease to either the pet or other members of the family. Here’s how:
- Maintain good worm and flea control measures. Ask your vet for advice.
Practise good hygiene such as:
- Hand washing
- Regular pet washing/grooming
- Clean environment and garden
- Cover sandpits so cats can’t get in
- Wash all fruit and vegetables properly
- Cook meat before serving
- Wear shoes in a dog area
- Use gloves for gardening
- Use common sense