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Top 10 Safety Tips for Working with Animals

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While working with animals is certainly an attractive prospect, there are inherent risks related to any job in the field. Animals can be unpredictable, so it is important to be alert to potential risks. Minimize your risk of injury by following these 10 animal handling safety tips:

1. Approach all animals with caution.

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Take care to avoid blind spots and approach slowly so animals are aware of your presence and proximity.  Talk softly as you approach so they hear you coming.  Sudden movements are never a good idea, regardless of the breed involved.

2. Stay alert.

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.

3. Study the behavior of the breed you’re working with.

Pay attention to body language, especially the signs of agitation. For example, horses pin their ears, strike with their teeth, and kick when upset. Dogs growl, crouch, and bare their teeth. You should be aware of the warning signs before attempting to work with an animal.

4. Be aware of zoonotic diseases.

Zoonotic diseases are those that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Examples of transmissible diseases include ringworm, salmonella, herpes B, rabies, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. Know the basic signs of an infected animal and be aware of how transmission can occur. Seek immediate medical attention after any potential exposure.

5. Are you allergic?

Realize that allergens such as animal dander could result in sneezing, wheezing, watery eyes, or breaking out in hives. Some individuals have severe breathing emergencies which require 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.

6. Inspect handling facilities for safety.

Sharp edges, slippery floors, improper lighting, and other structural hazards are responsible for many accidents and injuries. Maintain a safe environment and keep equipment in good working order.

7. Wear personal protective equipment.

Items of PPE 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.

8. 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.

9. Dispose of medical waste in appropriate containers.

Always handle hazardous medical equipment, such as needles or chemicals, with caution. Never throw needles away in the trash. Most clinics and farms keep special red biohazard disposal boxes on hand for this purpose.

10. 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.
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