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South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures
South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures South West Safeguarding and Child Protection Procedures

5.1.4 Pet Assessments


Torbay Council recognises the value of pets in a family, however our first and paramount consideration is to safeguard and promote the welfare of the child throughout his or her placement.


Assessments and Approvals of Foster Carers Procedure


  1. Dangerous Pets
  2. Prohibited Dangerous Dogs and other Dangerous Dogs
  3. Numbers of Dogs/Pets in a Foster Home
  4. Assessments
  5. Size of Dog/Pet
  6. Working Dogs and Animals in Rural Communities
  7. Animals/Dogs Kept for Breeding
  8. Health, Safety and Hygiene
  9. New Pets
  10. Dogs/Pets Currently in Placement
  11. Emergency or Remand Foster Placements
  12. Visiting Animals
  13. Action should a Pet Injure a Child
  14. Information Required for Panel
  15. Further Advice

    Appendix 1: Dog Assessment Questionnaire

1. Dangerous Pets

Torbay Council will not register or approve a home for Foster care where there is a dog living who is listed under the Dangerous Dogs Act (1991), or where there is a pet which comes under the Dangerous Wild Animals Act licensed list, (where there is any doubt guidance should be sought from the RSPCA).

2. Prohibited Dangerous Dogs and other Dangerous Dogs

The following dogs, which are proscribed by the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991, are prohibited:

Pit Bull type dogs can be called:

  • American Staffordshire Terriers (Am Staffs);
  • Irish Staffordshire Bull Terrier (ISBT);
  • Irish Blue or Red Nose;
  • Also, some kinds of American  Bulldogs have been found to be Pit Bulls.

If an applicant owns any of the above dangerous dogs, you are not able to assess her/him to become a foster carer (unless s/he wishes not to have such a dog in their home). If an approved foster carer acquires one of the above dogs, their approval would need to be terminated if s/he was not prepared to cease ownership.

Special caution should also be observed when assessing households containing the following:

  • Alsatian (German Shepherd);
  • Rottweiler;
  • Doberman;
  • Bulldog;
  • Or a 'pack' of dogs (more than two dogs).

If, after a risk assessment, you consider a child could be safely placed in household with one of the above dogs or a 'pack' of dogs, consult your Team Manager and obtain endorsement from your Service Manager before the general assessment of the prospective carer continues. This is to ensure the assessing social worker has management support in a situation where a potential risk may still be present or to clarify this is an effective use of scarce social work resources.

If an approved foster carer acquires one of the above dogs, a 'pack' of dogs or their dog ownership is increased from one to two or more, a risk assessment must also be undertaken. Your Team Manager should be consulted prior to obtaining endorsement from your Service Manager if you wish the carer's approval to continue.

3. Numbers of Dogs/Pets in a Foster Home

Two dogs will be the maximum in a foster home.

  1. Because of the likelihood for a pack instinct to develop;
  2. More than 2 dogs require a great deal of attention and time when looked after appropriately.

4. Assessments

When assessing a family to become Foster Carers it is important to include discussions with regard to the pets in the household. It is the responsibility of the prospective carer to prove the temperament of a dog/or pets in their household. Prospective carers must develop a clear written procedure with regard to the introduction of foster children to dogs (or other pets where applicable). This must be included in the home study report and brought to the attention of the panel.

The Department's Dog Owner's Questionnaire should be completed as part of the assessment of prospective foster carers, at annual reviews and on unannounced visits.

5. Size of Dog/Pet

It is recognised that dogs can attack children. The real risk is not usually related to the breed of dog but to the size. Small dogs may attack, but it is large dogs that have the strength to seriously maim or kill. Therefore when assessing a family this should be taken into consideration when making the final recommendation to the Panel.

The Fostering Panel should take into account any dogs or pets when approving a family and address the minimum age of child to be placed.

It would be of added help if a prospective carer can show that they and their dog have undertaken dog training/obedience classes.

6. Working Dogs and Animals in Rural Communities

Where prospective Carers have working dogs i.e. Police dogs/Farm dogs/Sheep dogs; these must be kept in a secure area outside the home where children cannot gain access. The assessing Social Worker will need to see the area and satisfy themselves that children could not gain access. A report/letter from the family's vet detailing the type of work undertaken by the animal would need to be included in presentation to the panel.

7. Animals/Dogs Kept for Breeding

This will require individual assessment, however the Social Worker will need to satisfy themselves that the pets are kept separately where children cannot gain access. It is important to note that even the most placid animals can become aggressive when they are protecting their young.

8. Health, Safety and Hygiene

It is important to be aware of the health risks that can be associated with pets e.g.

  • Cats Scratches and bites which can cause Toxic Plasmosis;
  • Dogs: Campylobacter or Toxicaris Canis infection;
  • Parrots: Psittacosis.

Dogs and Cats should be wormed and de-fleaed regularly. All vaccinations should be up-to-date. Carers should be able to support this with a certificate or letter from their vet (this should be noted on the assessment form as well as on the Carers annual review).

All outside areas should be kept clean of fouling. Pets in cages must be kept clean and gloves should be worn when cleaning. Gloves should also be worn when cleaning cat litter trays.

Where cats are kept, babies should be protected by the use of a net on prams and pushchairs.

No Looked after Child should be left alone at any time with a dog or other pet until the Foster Carer is confident that there is a positive relationship between the child and pet to ensure the child's safety. The Foster Carer must inform the child's Social Worker they are proposing to do this.

9. New Pets

If following approval as a carer the family decide to get a dog or other pet, they must consider taking the following actions first.

  • Consider carefully what sort of dog/pet would fit approval;
  • Seek background information on the dog/pet e.g. age, history etc.
  • Seek expert advice on how to handle/manage the pet given the fostering tasks undertaken and the possible behaviour of Children Looked After;
  • Consult with Fostering Social Worker once all information is known. The Fostering Social Worker can then take further advice from an expert or refer to Panel for approval/review.

10. Dogs/Pets Currently in Placement

Where existing Carers have either more than 2 dogs or a large dog, Fostering Social Workers should visit each Carer to look at their approval and registration, i.e. if a Carer is registered for babies or toddlers but has a large dog, their approval age will need to be formally reviewed. Where more than 2 dogs are in a foster home, this too will need to be formally reviewed. It is important to note that by reviewing each case individually, both the needs of the child and addressing the pet within the family will ensure safety for all.

11. Emergency or Remand Foster Placements

It is more likely that emergency or remand placements may have any age of child arriving at anytime of the day or night, it is therefore particularly important that Carers who offer this service do not have pets who may pose a risk to a particular child, i.e. large dogs as it is not known what age/size of child may be placed. If a dog is in the household, a 24-hour settling period should occur before the child is introduced to the pet.

12. Visiting Animals

It is important to note that where Foster Carers have friends/relatives with pets visiting their house this Policy would apply.

13. Action should a Pet Injure a Child

If a dog or other pet in the household bite, scratches or injures a child the Carer must take the following actions immediately:

  • Remove the animal from the house;
  • Give the child first aid and seek medical attention as soon a possible;
  • Notify the Fostering Social Worker or Team Manager;
  • Notify the child's Social Worker or Team Manager.

14. Information Required for Panel

If information is required for panel as part of a Form F assessment or a review of approval the following areas should be covered regarding each pet in the household:

  • Type of Pet, age, nature, background, name etc.
  • For each dog include the following:
    • Breed of dog. If it is not a pure breed is anything known of its ancestry?
    • Are there more than two dogs?
    • How long the family had the dog? Has the dog been re-homed before? Is it a rescue dog?
    • Who is the two legged “pack leader” responsible for exercise and toileting routines etc. How will the dog’s routine be maintained when a new child joins the household?
    • Observations of the dog’s behaviour and temperament. Does the dog respond to commands from the owner?
    • How the family would cope if the combination of dogs and children proves untenable.
  • Pets normal living arrangements - access to rooms/sleeping/eating etc.
  • Normal care of pet - feeding / cleaning / hygiene / who / how / where / inoculations / worming / prevention of fleas and lice etc.
  • What will be the risks to the health and safety of the foster child/young person? e.g. age, size, nature of child, previous experience of pets etc.
  • Any restrictions on pet required as result of risk factors: e.g. supervision, play, restricted access to living areas.
  • Introduction arrangements of pet to child.
  • Teaching the child about how to treat pet/animals.
  • The prospective foster carer should be asked how s/he would feel and react if their dog/animals were 'hurt' by a foster child/young person?

15. Further Advice

You may wish to look at the GOV.UK website which has information on the Dangerous Dogs Act 1991 and those breeds classified by this Act with pictures of the dangerous dogs. You may also wish to look CoramBAAF Practice Note 42 Placing Children with Dog-Owning Families, which can be obtained from the fostering team.

Appendix 1: Dog Assessment Questionnaire

Click here to view questionnaire