A man brought his dog to the Animal Protection League last week. He was very upset about having to surrender his dog; he had had him for four years, but it bit his child and he couldn’t have that.
Engaging him in conversation, we learned valuable information. We learned that this is a very loving dog. We also learned that they allowed their child to poke, hit, pull on the tail and ears, climb on and tease the dog. He also admitted that the child was teasing him with food and the dog was simply trying to get the food and instead bit the child.
And so, because this owner chose not to teach his child how to humanely interact with a pet and respect boundaries, this poor dog is scared out of his mind in a very stressful shelter. By not teaching these things to his child, he is also putting his child in danger. If he continues to interact with animals in this manner, at some point, he could be badly hurt. Now we have one more dog to find a home for. So far, this dog is not handling the stress well.
It seems that many folks with children who want to adopt one of our animals believe a pet should basically take whatever a child does to him. This includes teasing, hitting, poking, pulling, climbing on, holding when the pet clearly does not want to be restrained, bothering the pet while it is eating or drinking, taking its toys, and getting in its kennel. And if the pet growls or bites after giving numerous signs that it has had enough, the owners say the dog is aggressive and get rid of the dog. And this is why so many organizations who adopt animals are so very careful when adopting to people with children. Even the nicest, most tolerant pets can be pushed too far and bite out of fear or frustration. And whether we like it or not, there are some pets who simply should not be in a home with children; and we try to assess that before we place those pets in homes with children.
I believe it is parents’ responsibility to protect a pet from their children; and to teach their children to respect animals. Pets are not a toy for children to treat however they wish. It is also the parents’ job to protect the children from potentially dangerous situations with a pet. This also applies when children have their friends over; it is best that there is adult supervision if there is a pet involved. Sometimes multiple new children, along with increased noise and activity, can simply be too much stimulus for a pet.
I believe that until we know how a pet is going to respond to new people it is best to put them in another room and introduce them slowly.
I had pets as a child and they were my best friends. The bond between a child and his pet can be a beautiful thing; but a child has to be taught how to humanely treat animals in order for it to be a beautiful experience.
Maleah Stringer is executive director of the Animal Protection League, 613 Dewey St., Anderson. She can be reached at 765-356-0900 or