Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
Pets bring so much joy to our lives. They also become a good way to teach children the importance of giving and receiving love. However, not every close encounter of the pet kind has a happy ending. The statistics show the importance of being aware of potentially dangerous animals in your neighborhood. Consider the following: every year, dogs bite 4.7 million Americans, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); about 42 percent of dog bites occur among children less than 14 years of age (CDC); and most injuries to children under four years of age are to the head and neck areas (CDC) To protect your children, teach them what to do in different situations: 1. Teach your children how to behave around dogs. Emphasize that they should only approach a dog if the dog is leashed and accompanied by an owner. If the dog is not on a leash and/or is not accompanied by an owner (for example, if the dog is leashed to a table outside with no owner in sight) your children should leave the dog alone. If the dog is on a leash, with an owner holding the leash, teach your child to follow these important steps called the WASP approach. This technique was created by 12 year old Kelly Voight, who was a victim of a dog attack: W - Wait and watch the dog's body language. Understand how to tell the difference between angry, afraid, and happy dogs. Dogs show what they are feeling. A - Ask the owner for permission to pet the animal. S - Let the pet sniff you. P - Pet the dog in the direction of the fur and be very
gentle. 2. Teach your child what to do if a dog becomes threatening: a. Tell your child that if a dog appears threatening in any way, it is essential to always remain calm. Never scream. Remain completely still until the dog leaves or back away slowly without turning your back to the dog. b. Never run away. The dog will chase anyone who runs. c. If your child falls or is knocked to the ground he should curl into a ball. Emphasize the importance of protecting his face by putting his hands completely over his head and neck. Learn more: For more information, visit the Web site started by Kelly Voight. Her non-profit organization, "Prevent the Bite," has an excellent Web site, www.preventthebite.com. Other good resources include , and a site run by State Farm Insurance: . Don Keenan, the founder of Keenan's Kids Foundation, has recently published a book on child safety called 365 Ways to Keep Kids Safe, which is available at: www.balloonpress.com and from www.amazon.com. All proceeds benefit the Keenan's Kids Foundation.