Safety Tips for Working With Animals
Working with animals is certainly an attractive prospect, but there are always risks related to any job that involves hands-on interaction with animals (whether you are working with pets, livestock, or wildlife). Animals can be somewhat unpredictable when they are under stress or in an unfamiliar environment, like when they visit the veterinary office or the grooming salon, so it is important to be attentive and stay aware of the animal you are handling at all times. You can minimize your risk of injury by following these animal handling safety guidelines:
Stay Alert at All Times
Bites, kicks, and scratches are often delivered when a handler is distracted. When you are working with animals they need to have your complete attention at all times. A moment of carelessness is all it takes to sustain a potentially serious injury. Don't let yourself be distracted by a cell phone or idle chatter with other handlers.
Study the Behavior of the Species
Handlers must pay close attention to the behavioral signals that an animal displays. It is very important to recognize negative body language—especially the signs of agitation. Horses pin their ears, strike with their teeth, and kick when upset. Dogs growl, crouch, and bare their teeth when they feel threatened. Be sure to learn the warning signs when you start to work with a new species.
Take Precautions Against Zoonotic Diseases
Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted directly from animals to humans. Examples of zoonotic diseases include ringworm, salmonella, herpes B, rabies, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. You should be familiar with the basic signs of an infected animal and be aware of how transmission can occur so you can take the proper precautions to avoid infection. Be sure to seek immediate medical attention after any potential exposure.
Minimize Allergic Reactions
Allergens such as animal dander can potentially cause sneezing, wheezing, eye irritation, or hives. Some individuals have severe breathing emergencies which require the use of an inhaler or even hospitalization. Allergy shots may be necessary to minimize your reaction so that you can safely work with animals in a hands-on capacity. You may also need to entirely avoid certain types of animals if you are severely allergic to them.
Wear Personal Protective Equipment
Items of personal protective equipment can include a variety of options such as safety glasses, latex gloves, masks, steel toed footwear, helmets, coveralls, and lead aprons. If there is a product available and it is appropriate for the task at hand, consider taking advantage of it. Protective equipment can greatly minimize the chances of injury.
Restrain Animals Properly
Securing animals safely can help you to avoid sprains, strains, slip and fall accidents, and other physical injuries. Large animals, such as cattle and horses, should be placed in stocks or stalls. Halters, hobbles or other restraints can also be utilized. Dogs can be muzzled and cats can be wrapped gently in towels. In extreme cases, a tranquilizer should be administered by a veterinarian.
Have an Exit Strategy
An exit strategy is especially important when working with large animals in pens, stalls, or chutes. Don’t allow yourself to get cornered. Maintain a clear path of escape at all times. You could be seriously injured if you are pinned in a corner by one of the larger livestock species.