Risks & Hazards of Animal Handling
We can reduce the risk of injury to ourselves by following the best practices when interacting with, caring for, or transporting dogs and cats. However, there is always some risk when working with animals. A dog or cat may scratch or bite. These injuries may be minor or severe, and infection is possible any time that our skin is broken. Allergies can also adversely affect our health during animal care and handling.
Follow these safety guidelines to reduce risks and hazards when caring for animals:
- Approach animals that you don’t know with caution. Evaluate the dog’s or cat’s body language so that you know if it is safe to approach.
- Stay alert. If you are restraining, transporting, or providing care for an animal, be sure to focus on the task so that you are not taken by surprise if the animal reacts in an unsafe manner.
- Understand dog and cat behavior. This will allow you to see warning signs leading to a bite or scratch so that you can avoid injury.
- Prevent zoonotic disease. One important measure to ensure that you do not get sick from handling an animal that may have a disease that can be spread to humans is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after touching the animal.
- Address allergic reactions. You may not know that you are allergic to a dog or cat until you are in contact with them. If you have an allergic reaction such as difficulty breathing, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, itchy skin, watery eyes, hives, etc., tell someone immediately. If you know that you experience allergies when in contact with dogs or cats, make sure you have necessary medications available as prescribed by your doctor. You may need to avoid exposure to dogs and/or cats entirely if you are severely allergic.
- Pay attention to safety. Always be on the look out for safety hazards in the environment.
- Wear appropriate clothes and personal protective equipment. This includes long sleeves and pants, gloves, closed toe shoes, and eye protection when working with animals.
- Know who to call for help. It is a good idea to have a plan that you can implement if you are injured or become ill when working with animals. This could include calling a supervisor, parent/guardian, your family doctor, or even 911 in severe cases.
If you are bitten or scratched by a dog or cat, first aid should be administered immediately. This includes flushing the wound with water for several minutes.
Information adapted from "Safety Tips for Working With Animals" by The Balance Careers.