As part of the assessment process there’s a lot of paperwork and a lot of checks. Health and safety of course had to come into it somewhere. One of the perceived big risks are household pets. This is certainly for good reason as some family dogs have sadly ended up ruining family’s lives by killing or permanently scarring children. One of our own children was bitten by a neighbour’s black Labrador and had to have hospital treatment so we really did understand the risks.
The forms however, turned it into a slight farce and certainly kept us amused. There was one generic ‘pet form’ that had to be filled in for every animal in the house. At the time of the assessment we had a dog and a hamster. Filling the form in for Bramley was straightforward. She’s an excitable Border Terrier and is absolutely brilliant with children and incredibly tolerant. We were told that she would be assessed and we were slightly concerned about this as she jumps up when excited but this assessment never materialised (possibly because the SW had seen her with our children and felt comfortable that she was trustworthy). We made it very clear that we would never leave her alone in a room with a child under 5 (more for her protection!).
When it came to filling in the form for the hamster, this was harder to do. Was she well trained? Was she used for guard purposes? Did she go upstairs? Fortunately everything was deemed to be fine with our pets and our forms were sent off with our report for panel. A few weeks before panel the hamster died and had been replaced by another one – this time a male. Here we had a dilemma. Things had been incredibly slow to get to this stage and so did we risk another delay by confessing that the hamster forms were no longer accurate? It was a boy instead of a girl and certainly wasn’t trained. In fact it had bitten the kids a couple of times already! With hindsight all this seems ridiculous but we were so desperate to get it right. Fortunately our SW was incredibly sensible and agreed it was fine to leave it.
One of our friends who keeps chickens had the fun of naming them all so that she could fill in the forms. I was just relieved we’d given away our tropical fish a few years earlier….