We are Family - for expectant parents
The Victorian Government's We are Family Program provides a guide to nurturing the child and pet relationship from pregnancy to pre-school.
The We Are Family Program is aimed at expectant and new parents. It helps parents prepare existing pets for the arrival of a new baby and provides further guidance when the baby is home to ensure safety around pets with babies and children.
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.
For more information about the We are Family Program, contact
We Are Family Program / Responsible Pet Ownership Education Program
Phone: 9217 4321 or
Additional information about children and pets
Pets have long been recognized as valuable members of the family. Over the past couple of generations we have seen an increase in the average age we are having our first baby from our early twenties to early thirties and as a result our pets are often well established in the family unit before baby comes along.
Pets and children can form a wonderful close bond and it is heart-warming to watch them interact. Apart from obvious companionship and affection, there are many other benefits for children sharing their lives with a pet:
- Pets teach responsibility. Children learn about the requirements of a living being such as food, water and exercise.
- Pets aid childhood development. Pets help children develop nurturing and social skills. Developing positive feelings about pets can aid self-esteem and help children develop verbal communication and compassion.
- Pets are a friend to children. Children turn to pets when they need a friend, confidante or protector. Children often refer to their family pet as their 'best friend' As pets do not judge children or get angry at them, children often trust them with their secrets and private thoughts.
- 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 can participate in safe games with their pets and those who participate in walking/exercising 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 hospitalization for dog attack injuries. It also identifies that 80% of these dog attacks happen in the family home or that of a family member or friend. It is also important to note that 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.
We are Family is a guide to nurturing the child / pet relationship. It is aimed at educating expectant and new parents on the many advantages of allowing their child to experience the joys of having a pet in the family. It also informs you of the potential risks, and provides the knowledge, skills and strategies to ensure that the experience is not only a physically and emotionally enriching one, but a safe one as well.
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.