Accidents happen all the time. More often than not, people make mistakes when dealing with unknown animals and can either harm the animal or get hurt themselves. Data from StatPearls shows that millions of people end up going to the emergency department every year because of animal bites, with more than 95% of those coming from dog and cat bites.
Whether your family is going out for a wilderness trip or simply chance upon a stray in the street, it’s best to remember that unknown animals pose many dangers. If you know what practical safety tips to draw on, you have a better chance of protecting yourself, your children, and even your own pets.
Don’t Feed an Animal You Don’t Know
An immediate instinct when seeing a seemingly friendly unknown animal is to want to feed it. That said, it’s not a good idea to do so especially if you’re dealing with wildlife. Aside from diseases you may not know about, there’s no direct way to ascertain what the animal’s reaction will be to a human trying to feed it. To make things worse, you may even end up feeding the animal something that is harmful to its digestion.
It’s already advised against leaving any piece of food lying around, but it’s even worse to try and directly feed an unknown animal with your hand. This just puts you in close proximity unnecessarily.
Be Wary of Signs of Aggression
Alertness will be an essential factor for all family members in avoiding an unwanted injury. Knowing an animal’s aggression cues will give you enough time to react and flee. Because dog bites are the most common animal attacks, you’ll want to be ready for the ‘Warning Signs a Dog is About to Attack’.
If a dog is on all fours with their head and legs firm, straight, and erect, you’ll know it’s agitated. If it is crouching down with its ears pinned to the back of its head, it is likely preparing to lunge. You’ll also want to check if its lips are curled to show its teeth. Its tail will not be wagging happily and its hair will be raised.
Avoid Disturbing Natural Habitats
According to Zocdoc’s article on animal safety, one of the worst things you can do to an unknown animal is encroach upon its natural habitat. Animals have a tendency to feel territorial, so they may attack if they feel that you are an unwanted guest. It’s especially important to avoid moving things around in their space even if you’re trying “to help” as animals are very particular.
You may accidentally affect the natural habitat in a devastating way, too. That can also be interpreted as a sign of aggression and even cause a wild animal to call on others.
Know When to Approach with Caution and Kindness
It’s always best to avoid approaching unknown animals, particularly if they are wild animals. You may feel compelled to make friends with the animal, and children could be curious about a beast they have never seen before. Not only are children more susceptible to more diseases, but they also have an increased risk of getting fatal bites.
If you feel like they may be a lost pet or experiencing an injury, you must still exercise caution to determine whether they feel defensive. If there is an animal with children, you don’t want to come close to the babies as the mother will most likely respond with aggression. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases’ rabies coverage notes that around 4,500 rabies cases occur in wildlife every year.
Just as we humans value boundaries, so do animals. Even if animals seem docile, it’s better to give them space if they are unfamiliar with you. Avoid any sudden movements or loud movements that may startle the animal.
You should also be patient, considering how not all animals (even pets) have a friendly demeanor. If you see an unknown animal that is actually a pet, it’s also important to remind any children that permission should be asked from the pet’s owner. Not everybody is comfortable with strangers interacting with their pets, and they could even give you insight into the animal’s history and personality.
If the animal you chance upon is a large one, boundaries are even more crucial. USA Today reports that there are around 5,440 documented attacks from large species with around 1 in 3 proving fatal.