Kids are naturally drawn to animals, regardless docile or temperamental ones. In order to stay safe while interacting with animals, it is important to educate your child on how to recognise their moods and what not to do around them.
WORDS CINDY LIM
Animals can be cute, cuddly and great fun, but like human beings, they have tempers, moods and feelings too. Children need to learn how to minimise risks to themselves when handling their pets or when they approach or are approached by stray animals.
It is important to recognise an animal’s mood and to give it personal space and privacy when it is clear they do not wish to be bothered.
Animals that are in pain or discomfort, feel fearful or cornered are most likely to react aggressively (think biting or scratching!) to protect themselves.
Pet Safety Tips
How can your child avoid being harmed by his own or other pets? Here are some tips that you can teach your child.
· Never bother animals when they are eating. Do not attempt to take food or water away from an animal.
· Do not disturb an animal when it is sleeping. Let sleeping dogs lie.
· Do not remove chew toys or the animal’s belongings as it may feel protective towards those items.
· Always ask an adult for advice and permission before approaching an animal they are not familiar with.
· Avoid going near animals that are nursing their young, especially protective females who will turn aggressive if you get too close.
· Never approach an animal from behind.
· Always handle an animal gently – this means no squeezing your dog, holding bunny by its ears or pulling kitty by its tail.
· Be gentle and avoid sudden moves when approaching an animal.
· Do not scream, shout or raise a voice at an animal as it frequently scares them and makes them anxious. Anxiety can turn into aggression.
· Never use force on an animal. Eg. hitting, slapping, throwing objects or spraying water at it.
· Do not touch the animal’s sensitive areas such as eyes, ears, nose, mouth or genitals.
· Do not approach animals that show tell-tale signs of anxiety or aggression.
· If a pet looks sick or injured, do not go near it. An animal that normally loves to be hugged or played with may get upset or angry when it is feeling poorly.
And remember, never leave a young child unsupervised with an animal. Accidents can happen in a split second, even with the most trusted pets.
Apart from pets, children must know how to react when faced with unfamiliar animals. Although Singapore is relatively urbanised, a walk through the parks here will still lead to chance encounters with stray dogs, squirrels, monkeys, bats, snakes, otters and many more. And not forgetting the wild boar attacks in Bishan Park (June 2012) and Punggol (May 2016) where children were injured in both cases!
The rule in simple: Do not touch, go near or feed wild animals. Although some of these animals may look harmless or even cute, leave them alone. They are not like our common pets – they are not used to being around humans and may turn aggressive. They may also carry diseases like rabies.
Many wild animals prefer to avoid human contact and would
only attack when provoked or enticed.
If a stray or wild animal approaches your child, what should he do?
· Cease motion and stay still, keeping your arms by your sides.
· Be calm and move slowly away from the animal. Do not approach or attempt to feed the animal.
· Do not run. Animals like dogs love to chase moving objects a.k.a people in this instance!
· Stare straight ahead. Do not maintain eye contact.
· Keep a safe distance and do not corner or provoke the animal.
· Keep quiet. Screeching like a maniac may scare or provoke the animal.
Animals are wonderful to be around but it is vital for your child to know how to be safe when he is interacting with them.