Animals can be great fun, but it's important to know
how to be safe when you're with them. Both indoor animals and outdoor animals need
to be treated kindly all the time. This means different things depending on the animal
and the situation.
Stepping outside can mean a world full of great animals to see — from squirrels
in trees to birds in flight. In some parts of the world, kids may see slithery snakes,
black bats, or even cool coyotes. And don't forget raccoons, skunks, and other critters
that come out in some places at night.
The rule in the great outdoors is simple: Don't touch or go near an animal.
Although some of these animals may look cool or even cute, leave them alone. These
animals aren't like regular pets. They're not used to being around people and may
bite or attack if you come near them. They also might have rabies.
Don't ever try to feed a wild animal. Bird feeders are OK, but
other animals, even if they look hungry, shouldn't ever be fed. When it comes to these
animals, it's better for everyone if you stay away and check them out at the zoo,
on the Internet, on TV nature shows, or in books.
Playing Safely With Pets
Pets can't tell you if they're upset or scared, so they show you. They might do
this by biting or scratching.
To avoid bites and scratches:
Never bother a pet when it's eating or pull its food or water away.
Don't tease a dog or cat or pull its tail or ears.
Never bother a pet when it's sleeping.
Don't take a toy or bone away from a cat or dog or hold it out of reach of the
Never try to get near a pet with its babies (like a cat with kittens or a dog
with puppies). Animal mothers are very protective and will bite to
keep you away.
When lifting a rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, or gerbil from its cage, do it slowly.
Be sure to hold the animal underneath its belly.
Never pick up or hold a rabbit by its ears.
When pulling an iguana, lizard, snake, or other reptile from its tank, do it slowly
and carefully. Then wash your hands right away because reptiles can carry bacteria
like Salmonella on their skin.
Never stick your bare hand into a fish tank — most fish can't hurt you.
But a few types of fish can and do sting if they get upset. The water also contains
germs that could cause a skin infection.
If a pet looks sick or is injured, stay far away. An animal that normally loves
to be petted and played with may get very upset and even bite when it is feeling ill.
Tell an adult so he or she can get help for the animal.
When you're at a friend's home, the same rules apply — plus one more. Always
ask your friend if it's OK to pet or hold his or her pet. If your friend says OK,
move slowly and be sure to let the animal sniff your hands first.
Safety Around a Strange Dog
Coming home from school and hoping you won't see the dog who always barks like
crazy and runs around? You're not the only one. Kids often get scared
of a dog they don't know, especially if that dog is loud and doesn't have an owner
To keep your cool around dogs:
Never pet or touch a strange dog, even if it runs up to you and
seems like it might be friendly.
If a dog starts running toward you, don't run. Running away can
make the dog want to chase after you — even if it doesn't want to hurt you,
its instincts will tell it to chase.
If a strange dog approaches you, try to stand very still. This may be scary for
a minute or two, but often the dog will become bored and walk away. If the dog tries
to sniff you, let it sniff — this is its way of checking you out.
Walk away from a strange dog very slowly. Don't wave your arms around or make
a lot of noise because these actions will only excite the dog. Look straight ahead
and not into the dog's eyes.
If you are very afraid of a strange dog or a strange dog tries to bite or attack
you, tell an adult as soon as possible. He or she can find the dog's owner.
A final word on felines (say: FEE-lines), also known as cats:
Although most kids aren't as scared of strange cats as they are of strange dogs, it's
still a good idea to stay away from cats you don't know. Never pet
or touch a strange cat, even if it seems friendly.
Save your love for your own dogs and cats. You know they'll love you back!