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Choosing a pet that's safe for your child

Your vet or veterinary nurse can give you advice about pets.

They can help you with advice about:

  • choosing a pet
  • preparing a pet for the arrival of a new baby or child
  • looking after your pet
  • training your pet
  • child safety and health around pets

Choosing a pet

Make sure you choose the right animal.

They should be right for your family's circumstances and your child's:

  • health
  • age
  • developmental stage

Reptiles are not suitable pets if you have a child under 5.

Reptiles and child safety

Get your pet from a reputable source.

Before you bring the pet home, make sure it is:

  • healthy
  • happy
  • socialised
  • behaving normally

Make sure you are happy that it was well cared for and that all paperwork and vaccine records are in order.

Think about your child's safety when introducing a pet into your family. Make sure all your child's vaccinations are up to date.

There are laws you need to be aware of when choosing a dog.

Certain breeds of dogs are deemed dangerous due to their:

  • size
  • strength
  • original breed function
  • behavioural problems

If the dog has a behavioural problem, think about whether you can put in the time to train it. Think carefully about your child’s safety and the safety of other children.

Dog licences and ownership -

Adult supervision around pets and children

Always supervise your child when they are around pets. Some animals may run away if they are unhappy, unwell or frightened. But others will bite and scratch.

You should watch your child at all times. But sometimes they can move quickly when you are distracted by something else. To help keep your child and pet safe, it can be a good idea to keep your pet in a different part of the house. You could keep them in a fenced area. You can also create a fenced-off area where your child can play.

Keep pet food and water bowls away from babies and children. Babies and young children can drown in a very small amount of water. Pet food is a potential choking hazard and a source of infection.

Teach your child how to interact with a pet

When your child is able to understand, teach them how to:

  • behave safely around pets
  • avoid dangerous situations
  • respond to danger signs

Do not expect your child to take on board your safety advice. Young children do not understand danger. That is why close adult supervision of your child around pets is important.

Be a good role model for your child and treat your pet with care and respect.

Children can sometimes get confused about a pet's body language. They may misread a pet's behaviour. A child should never put their face close to an animal's face.

Tell your child to tell you if they have been scratched or bitten.

Keeping your pet healthy

All animals kept in the home or garden must be clean and healthy.

Help this by:

  • making sure there is always clean water and a healthy food supply
  • keeping up to date with vaccines, worming and flea or tick control
  • getting advice from your vet about how to care for your pet
  • asking your vet about any special things you need to do for your specific type or breed of pet

If your pet shows any signs of sickness, skin disease or behavioural problems, get advice from your vet as soon as possible.

Keep sick animals away from children and be extra careful with cleaning and hand washing.

Page last reviewed: 22 October 2022
Next review due: 22 October 2025