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Today is National Kids and Pets Day! This is a day to celebrate the bond between children and their pets, but it is also a day to remind ourselves and our children about safe play and practices with their pets. Every year many children are harmed by family pets and in many of the cases, the injury could have been avoided. Parents with elementary school age, and younger children must be extra diligent to monitor the times that the children are playing with the family pet(s).
The five most common household pets in the United States are dogs, cats, fish, birds and rabbits. More than 36% of households have at least one dog, and more than 30% have at least one cat. Pet bites and scratches should be thoroughly washed with warm water and soap. If the skin is broken call your family doctor for advice. Keep dogs and cats up to date with the Rabies vaccination. Dog bites can be especially devastating so it is imperative that parents demonstrate safe children and pet relationships. Not only will the children be safer, but the number of dogs returned or euthanized for aggressive behavior will decline as well.
There are some cardinal rules for pet-owning households with children. ALWAYS supervise your child when he/she is with a pet. Even the most trusted family pet can react aggressively to unwanted or sudden touch, or loud noises. Teach your children not to approach an animal when it is sleeping, eating or chewing a toy. An animal may interpret an approach as threatening in these situations. A child should not reach or climb in to a pets crate for this same reason. They should ALWAYS ask an adult before approaching or touching an animal they dont know. While petting an adorable cat or dog is tempting, that same animal may be fearful or aggressive.
The benefits for a child who has a beloved pet are enormous. Children learn responsibility and compassion through these loving bonds. Kids with pets generally have increased self-esteem, better nurturing skills, and may have lower instances of allergies. Children with special needs have even more to gain from a special relationship with a pet. With the right safety measures in place, kids and their pets can enjoy years of fun and love!