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Dogs and cats can be great companions for kids, but it is important to teach children to be safe around animals. Bites and scratches by dogs or cats can be caused by the family pet or by stray animals. The results of an animal attack can be serious and traumatic. Disfiguring injury, infection, the threat of rabies, and a fear of animals are all possible when a child is bitten or scratched by an animal. Below you will find tips that can help you or your child avoid animal bites.


  • Teach kids never to hurt or frighten an animal, this includes: ear, lip and tail pulling, and rough-housing.
  • Never restrain an animal against its will or trap it where it can't escape.
  • Leave an animal alone if it seems afraid.
  • Pet dogs and cats on the sides and back, not on the face or head. Cats should not be rubbed on the belly.

  • Leave animals alone when they are eating, sleeping, chewing on a toy, or taking care of young puppies or kittens.
  • Teach children to put the food down and not touch it again, if they must feed the dog.
  • Children should never attempt to touch or move an injured animal, but should call an adult for help.
  • Avoid animals that are outside the home, even friend's pets. Many children are bitten because they don't realize that a friend's pet doesn't remember them. Never go into a friend's yard without a member of the family present.
  • Stay back from animals on chains, or animals inside cars or trucks.
  • Never approach an animal loose on the street.
  • Always avoid wild animals.

Teach the child to stand or sit very still and quiet if a dog comes near. Running away may cause the dog to chase and attack.

  • "Stand like a tree". If standing, stay still and stare straight ahead, until the dog goes away.
  • "Curl up like a rock". If sitting or if knocked down, curl up on one side with a fist over each ear. Be as still as possible until the dog leaves.
  • Throw something as "bait" if the dog attacks, like a coat or backpack.

Children can be bitten by the family pet.

  • Train your dog in basic obedience. Contact a training specialist or get a book about dog training at the library or bookstore.
  • A pet that has been spayed or neutered is three times less likely to bite than one that has not. Contact a veterinarian to have your pet spayed or neutered.
  • Dogs that are permanently chained up are notoriously aggressive and prone to bite.

  • Seek medical care as soon as possible.
  • Wash all bites with soap and water immediately. Animal bites can become badly infected.
  • Report any animal bite to the appropriate animal control authority, including bites from the family pet.

Teaching safety tips to children should not be scary or threatening to them. Have your child practice the "stand like a tree" and "curl up like a rock" safety tips. Quiz children about the safety tips, for example, should they pick up the dog's food bowl while he is eating? Animals can be great fun and make wonderful pets, but they should always be treated with caution and kindness.

If you have questions about animal safety please contact

Bernalillo County Animal Care Services and Protection at 314-0280.


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