Q: I went to my vet’s office with my cat and was unpleasantly surprised by the number of poorly behaved children. Not only were they misbehaving in the waiting room, barking like dogs, they were running up and down the hall and screaming in the exam room when their dog received an injection. The fact that their parents did nothing to stop them is almost beside the point. Kids don’t belong in an animal hospital. Period. They do nothing but stress out the animals.
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A: I agree with you 20 percent. Like everything else in life, there’s an 80-20 rule in effect. Twenty percent of children are poorly behaved and should be curbed by their parents (though seldom seem to be). The other 80 percent are well-behaved and deserve the benefits of learning what veterinarians do.
I’m sorry that you had to experience the 20 percent on your visit. I’ve had those unlucky days when it seems like all the children are being mollycoddled by permissive parents who seem blithely unaware that their kids’ behavior affects not just the humans in their vicinity, but all the animals, too.
Pets are, after all, extremely sensitive in a veterinary setting. Any loud sounds or frenetic activity is absolutely unwelcome and makes pets even more anxious. Moreover, some pets are completely unused to children and are terrified by them.
As if it weren’t enough that the pets are put in a terrible position, parents should know that when pets get anxious they’re more likely to act out against humans and other animals in aggressive ways. Human and animal safety becomes a bigger issue when unruly children are present since bites become more commonplace. This is as true in the waiting room as it is in the exam room, where the veterinary staff now has to handle these extra-frightened patients.
With all that in mind, here are a few pointers for parents:
- Advise your children ahead of time that they’ll be expected to be calm and considerate of the animals’ welfare. Indoor voices only and no running or jumping.
- Unless it’s an emergency and you can’t get child care, don’t bring children too young to understand the consequences of their behavior or who have misbehaved at the vet’s in the recent past.
- Remove children who are misbehaving. Trust me, we’re more than happy to reschedule your pet’s appointment in cases like these!