One of the top three reasons that people give up their pets involves children. Rescue groups receive hundreds of calls and emails every week from people who claim to love their pets, but just can’t keep their pets in the home because of the children. Many rescue groups won’t adopt to young couples, or even to young, single adults, because chances are, when a child comes along, the pet will be returned.
Some people decide to give up their pets as soon as they learn they are expecting a child. They don’t even try to keep their 4-legged family members as they anticipate the addition of their new 2-legged member.
Some people give up their pets when their baby starts crawling, walking, falling and grabbing. A pet who may have tolerated the new screaming, smelly addition to the home suddenly seems to have little patience for the newly mobile creature. Rather than training their pet and monitoring their child, parents instead decide that their formerly good dog or cat has suddenly gone “bad.”
The truth is – dogs and cats almost never just turn bad. Instead, pets tolerate the stress of unwelcome hugs, stolen toys and grabby hands for as long as they can. Dog trainer Casey Lomonaco describes a dog bite as a losing game of Tetris. Stress builds up in a dog much like the screen on a Tetris game. When the dog’s stress board is full, the game is over and a bite happens. But, a pet’s owner has missed several opportunities along the way to recognize and reduce stress.
If you are a parent, it’s up to you to make sure that your pets and your children can co-exist. If you just hope that everything works out, and it doesn’t, it will be your responsibility, not your pet’s or your child’s responsibility.
If you know someone struggling with pets and children, it is your responsibility to provide resources to the parents to save both the pet and the child from irreparable damage. If you are considering adding a pet to a home with children, or adding a child to a home with pets, please prepare your home for our new family member.