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GraphicMany child care providers who care for children in their own homes have pets. Pets can be excellent companions for children. Pets can meet emotional needs of children and others for love and affection. Caring for pets also gives children an opportunity to learn how to treat and be responsible for others. However, some guidelines for protecting the health and safety of the children should be followed.

  • All pets, whether kept indoors or outside, should be in good health, show no evidence of disease, and be friendly toward children.
  • Dogs or cats should be appropriately immunized (check with the veterinarian) and be kept on flea, tick, and worm control programs. Proof of immunizations should be kept in a safe place.
  • Pet living quarters should be kept clean. All pet waste should be disposed of immediately. Litter boxes should not be accessible to children.
  • Child care providers should always be present when children play with pets.
  • Children should be taught how to behave around a pet. They should be taught not to provoke the pet or remove the pet’s food. They should always keep their faces away from a pet's mouth, beak, or claws.
  • If you have a pet in your child care facility, tell parents before they enroll their child. Some children have allergies that may require the parents to find other child care arrangements.
  • Children should wash their hands after handling pets or pet items.
  • All reptiles carry Salmonella. Therefore, small reptiles that might be handled by children, including turtles and iguanas, can easily transmit Salmonella to them. Iguanas and turtles are not appropriate pets for child care centers.
  • Some pets, particularly “exotic” pets such as some turtles, iguanas, venomous or aggressive snakes, spiders, and tropical fish, may not be appropriate in the child care setting. Check with a veterinarian if you are unsure whether a particular pet is appropriate for children. Check with the local health department for regulations and advice regarding pets in the child care setting.
Note: This information is not intended to take the place of your state's or locality's child care regulations and laws. In every case, the laws and regulations of the city, county, and state in which the child care facility is located must be carefully followed even if they differ from these recommendations.

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