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Safety: Children and pets

  • At least 80% of Australian households have some type of pet. Growing up with a pet can be a wonderful experience for children. A pet will provide hours of fun and entertainment as well as an opportunity for children to learn to love, respect and care for other creatures. Alongside the joys of pet ownership also come responsibilities, for example grooming, exercising and feeding. School aged children are better able to learn these skills and will delight in taking care of their special friend. Younger children and pets will need closer supervision to keep them both safe.

    By far the majority of family pets are dogs and cats. Children should never be left alone with a dog. Even the most placid and friendly dogs may bite if annoyed, frightened or hurt. Most dog bites to children are caused by the family dog (33%) or a dog known to the family. Most often the child was teasing, biting or grabbing the dog, often when the dog was sleeping or eating.

    Some other pets include rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, fish, birds, reptiles and horses. Whether the animal is big or small, has fur, fins or feathers, the best way for children to learn how to properly care for it is by following the right example. Children do not always appreciate that animals do not follow ‘human rules’ of behaviour.  Therefore, the more you understand animal behaviour and habits the better you can model the correct way to care for your pet. The time spent  getting to know your pet will ensure that you have many enjoyable and rewarding years together.

    Telephone The Royal Children’s Hospital Safety Centre on (03) 9345 5085 for information on the Dogs ‘n’ Kids resources on dog bite prevention and responsible dog ownership.

    For more information

    RCH website Dogs and Kids

    The Royal Children’s Hospital Safety Centre

    The Petcare Information and Advisory Service                   




This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.