Risk Assessments and YOU

Do you do risk assessments on the animals you work with?   If not, you should. But you say “I’m a groomer, I don’t try to train aggressive animals” or “I don’t allow aggressive dogs in my training classes.”  Even if you don’t intentionally work with aggressive animals, there is always the possibility that any animal you interact with can hurt you, another person or another animal.  Knowing what the risk of injury might be from any particular animal helps you protect yourself and others. 

A risk assessment is a judgment of the likelihood that an animal will do harm to others.  Risk assessments can take many forms, from formal tests that may be performed on dogs or cats considered for adoption to informal questioning of owners and observations of the animal prior to admission to a facility such as a doggie day care or grooming salon.

Most of the literature on risk assessments has focused on evaluations that can be performed by shelter or rescue organizations to make decisions about.  These groups have a need for evaluations that could be conducted systematically, be repeatable among facilities, and actually be predictive of future behavior.  Not all these criteria have been met by the procedures currently in use.
A few examples of risk assessment procedures include the SAFER Meet Your Match™ program created by Dr. Emily Weiss of the ASPCA and the Assess-A-Pet™ program created by Sue Sternberg.

Risk assessments are also commonly performed by behavior consultants and trainers who work with aggressive dogs. Owners of these dogs want, and need, to know the risks they face in keeping such an animal. However, there is no one standard procedure that is generally accepted.

Most all pet professionals can benefit from conducting some sort of risk assessment on animals they handle and interact with.  At the very least, have a list of questions for the owner about what you can expect from their animal.  A sample would be “What frightens your cat?” “Is there anything that your dog doesn’t like done to him (pull on his collar for example)?”  “How does your dog get along with unfamiliar dogs?”  Open ended questions are generally better than ones that have a yes or no answer (“Is the friendly?” may not provide much useful information).

In some circumstances you may want to observe the animal under more controlled conditions to see how he may react to other animals or situations he’s likely to encounter in your facility.

The greatest value in doing a risk assessment is that it helps you continually think about the potential risks you face with every new animal you work with.  It’s a reminder to be more cautious and to pay close attention to the animal’s behavior.  It’s when we get on “automatic”, go too quickly or don’t pay attention to what the animal is communicating with his body language that bad things are more likely to happen.

Discover more about how to develop a practical risk assessment procedure from our two session webinar course “Risk Assessments of Aggressive Animals” at PetProWebinars.com.   We are offering a “Back To School” discounted package that includes the risk assessment webinar and Kathy Sdao’s webinar  “The Bite Threshold Model of Canine Aggression”

Get both for 20% less the individual price of each.  Just enter the coupon code "back to school" in the shopping cart at checkout and your 20% discount will be taken automatically.  Coupon go

Read our new article on the Bite Threshold Model and see how this relates to risk assessments.

1 Comment

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