One more post about illogical and dangerous activities associated with animals and young children and I’ll hopefully get off the subject for awhile. I came across this daycare’s website today. Keep in mind (again) that the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that children less than 5 years of age not have contact with reptiles, and that the Compendium of Measures to Prevent Disease Associated with Animals in Public Settings published by the National Association of State Public Health Veterinarians states that wild or exotic animals may not be appropriate in school settings. The photo gallery from this particular daycare included some great pictures of things that you should NOT do with young children. Some of the more striking example are below:
1) Letting a large snake wrap its body around the neck of a young child.
2) Letting a young child kiss a snake.
3) Letting a child touch a turtle.
4) Letting a young child pet a pygmy hedgehog. (Like reptiles, hedgehogs very often carry infectious pathogens, including Salmonella.)
- whether anyone made sure these children immediately washed their hands after they touched the animals.
- how may kids but their hands in their mouths before they washed their hands. (Probably almost all of them, considering the "animal visit" probably went on for quite a while.)
- whether this activity took place in the same area where the children later ate lunch or a snack.
- whether the parents knew that this was going to happen.
I’m not against young children having contact with animals. I think pet contact can be very rewarding for young children. However, these individuals are at higher risk for infection and it is our responsibility to protect them. Putting them in high risk situations like these is inappropriate. Animal visitation in daycares is not necessarily a bad thing, if it involves animals that are a low risk species (e.g. dogs and cats), that are healthy, and that have been temperament tested (to show they are at low likelihood of biting). It is also important that parents provide consent for their children to participate, that good hygiene practices are used (and enforced), and that the people bringing in the animals know what they are doing.