Animal advocates give tips to keep children and animals safe

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - Less than 48 hours after a 3-year-old Duncan girl was killed in what police are calling a dog attack, advocates and animal foster services are stressing the importance of animal and child safety.

Leslie Harrelson said an attack can happen in the blink of an eye.

"Things happen very quickly," said Harrelson, founder of P.E.T.S Low-Cost Spay and Neuter.  "You never know what is going to trigger an animal if you do not know their history."

Kimber Hopkins is the founder of Emily's Rescue, an organization that fosters out dogs and cats to families.

Before those animals go out, they are paying close attention to how the dog or cat acts around people and other pets.

"If we are seeing some aggression issues or it is totally shutting down, we are not usually going to pull that dog because it is a bite risk, and we are not going to take that risk," said Hopkins.

One way they are able to see a dog or cat personality around children or other pets is by taking them out in public.

"Whenever we bring the dog out to events, we can kind of tell how they are going to do with a child," said Hopkins.  "We always recommend several visits if it is a dog that has not been around children."

Hopkins said the main reason a dog will snap at someone is that they feel threatened or scared.  Most of the time, the animal will give signals that they are uncomfortable.

"Growling a little bit or you can see on its face that it is a little scared," said Hopkins.

It is important to walk up to the dog or cat slowly, and teach your children to not grab the face or tail.

"People need to consider what their children look like to animals," said Harrelson.  "If a child is really excited and they are running around or they are screaming, they may or may not look like prey to a dog and anytime something runs, a dog is going to chase it."

The biggest thing is to know the animal.

"Any animal big or small, regardless of breed, you need to really make sure what that animal's triggers are and if they are a good fit for your family before you start introducing it to your children and other family members," said Harrelson.

Hopkins also recommends taking your dog to a trainer.

Trainers will be able to point out aggression in the dog and help treat it.

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