We are Family - for expectant parents
The Victorian Government's We Are Family Program educates expectant and new parents on the advantages of child and pet relationships.
The Program is delivered free to Victorian hospitals (as part of their childbirth education classes) and resources are also given to local council maternal health centres.
Download a copy of the We Are Family booklet, a guide to nurturing the child and pet relationship from pregnancy to kindergarten.
For more information contact:
We Are Family Program / Responsible Pet Ownership Education Program
Phone: 9217 4321 or
or phone the Customer Service Centre on 136 186.
Children and pets
Pets have long been recognised as valuable members of the family. Pets are often well established in the family unit before a baby comes along. Pets and children can form a close bond and along with companionship and affection, there are many other benefits for children sharing their lives with a pet:
- Pets teach responsibility. Children learn about the caring for a living being and the importance of providing pets with food, water and exercise.
- Pets aid childhood development. Pets help children develop nurturing and social skills. Developing positive feelings about pets can improve self-esteem and help children develop verbal communication and compassion.
- Pets are a friend to children. Children turn to pets and often refer to their family pet as their 'best friend.'.
- Pets teach life lessons. Pets are often the first experience a child has with death and grieving.
- Pets are fun. Pets provide unconditional love and affection. Children who walk the family dog have the added benefit of extra physical activity. Unfortunately, not all childhood experiences with pets are positive ones and research clearly shows that children in the 0-4 age bracket are at the greatest risk of hospitalisation for dog attack injuries. Research identifies that 80% of these dog attacks happen in the family home or that of a family member or friend. Children are most often bitten by their own dog or one known to them.
- From a welfare point of view we are also experiencing a large number of pets, particularly cats, being relinquished to welfare shelters, with owners citing the arrival of a new baby as the reason. Many of these relinquishments are based on inaccurate information depriving both children and pets of a potentially long and happy relationship.
- Parents are the first and most influential educators in their child's life journey. Teaching your child about the joys and responsibilities of pet ownership begins from an early age as they learn from your interaction and the way you nurture and guide their experiences with their pets.