Pet Safety Around Construction Sites, Renovation Projects, and Heavy Equipment
With 61 percent of all US households either owning one or planning to get one soon, pets are critical members of the modern American family; tending to their safety and well-being is critical.
One of the biggest changes a pet can experience in their daily lives involves construction and renovation. The loud sounds of equipment, hammers, saws and power tools combined with a permanent change in the pet’s environment can create stress. Not only that, but heavy equipment and power tools present a safety risk to most pets. As a pet owner, it is your responsibility to help your pet with these changes and provide the necessary protections to keep your pet safe.
Both dogs and cats are at risk during construction and renovation periods. Even living near a farm with all of the equipment and heavy machinery of the farm can create a hazard. To keep your pet safe, you need to know what measures to take. This guide will help walk you through the risks that construction and renovation pose to your pet, and the steps you can take to keep them calm and safe. We will look at these pet-related saftey tips:
- Pet Safety Near Construction Sites
- Saftey Protocol for Pets Near a Home or Office Renovation
- Keeping Pets Safe Near Farms and Farm Equipment
- Tips for Senior or Special Needs Pets
Tips for Pet Safety Near Construction Sites
When construction takes place near your home, you need to be on the lookout for potential hazards for your family and your family pet. The hazards from a construction site are numerous, from undue stress on your pet to the risks of the site itself. All it takes is a mere moment for your pet to get away from you and into the site for a tragedy to happen.
Today’s construction sites have many features that are designed to protect people, but protecting pets is less of a concern. For instance, mobile barriers, which give a visual to keep people out of a site and safe, do little to deter a curious dog or cat. Animals can’t read warning signs, and construction workers aren’t trained to watch for pets in the same way they are trained to watch for people. Animals can easily slip past barriers and even hide out for extended periods of time. All of this, combined with the added noise from skid steers, backhoes, dozers, and other pieces of construction equipment make for a dangerous situation for pets.
If you see the telltale signs of a construction site going up near you, it’s time to get proactive. Here are some safety tips you can use to make sure your pets stay safe.
- Inspect the fencing around the site. Most construction sites will have fences to keep animals and children out, but they may not be maintained as well as you would like. Feel free to take a walk around the perimeter of the construction site and inspect for any dog or cat-sized holes that could pose a risk for your pet. If you identify any risks, reach out to the construction company or property owner; at the very least, they will be interested in minimizing the risk of a lawsuit down the road.
- Recognize the physical risks of construction sites. Construction sites have many serious risks. One dog owner reportedly had to put his pet down after the dog fell into a poorly marked hole on a construction site. Holes are just one of the types of risks you will find. Large equipment, toxic chemicals, falling objects and even heavy materials can all be potentially fatal to your pet, but they also might vary according to the specific construction site, location, and what’s being built. Know what the risks are so you can tailor fit your precautions.
- Be aware that the construction site may cause stress. Your pet is more sensitive to sounds and smells than you are, and the construction site may be a stressful place for your pet to be. Watch for signs of stress.
- For dogs, this may include pacing, trembling, excessive panting, licking paws or nose, pinning back the ears, hiding and refusing treats.
- For cats, watch for crouching, shaking, rapid breathing, bent legs, tail held close to the body, flattened ears and whiskers that are held back. Both animals may have changes in their diet or defecation when stressed, and too much stress may create aggressive behavior.
If you are noticing these signs, talk to your vet about what you can do to minimize your pet’s stress.
- Consider crating your pet when you are gone. If you normally leave your pet outdoors or with access to the outdoors when you leave home, consider making a change during the construction time. Using a crate for your pet or barricading your pet indoors in a safe room can lessen the risk while also reducing their stress levels. Save the outdoor time for times when you are home and can monitor the pet’s stress levels, needs, and safety.
- Keep pet doors inaccessible. If you have a “doggy door” that allows your pet outdoors without your supervision, consider blocking it until the construction project is over. This will limit the risk of an escape.
- Know how to call a pet when it’s loose. If your pet escapes your home or yard during a period of construction, getting them back is critical to their safety.
- For dogs, the best way to get a dog to return is not to chase them. Instead, get down on the ground in a playful stance and call the dog’s name. This is unexpected and will cause the dog to investigate, allowing you to grab them.
- Cats can be a bit easier to catch because they often don’t wander far from home. To get your cat to return, put out a litter box and some food and wait. Chances are your cat will come to investigate, and you can get him back inside safely.
- If your pet gets out and can’t be found, and you suspect they got into the construction site, go to the construction crew chief. This is the first place to go for permission to search the construction site. You don’t want to be climbing among excavators and wheel loaders without permission, as you could be injured or fined. Chances are if your pet has gotten into the construction site, the crew will have an idea of where to look.
- Call the construction company for help if needed. If you’re having trouble getting help searching the site, consider calling the construction company. Remember, the construction team has to keep the job and you safe, and this may mean they won’t let you search the site. Calling the construction parent company may help you get assistance more quickly.
- Consider changing your walk route. If your walk route takes you by the construction site, and you have some freedom to change it up, consider doing so. Even walking on a leash near a construction site can be dangerous, as it’s always possible for your pet to wriggle free of a constraint and into the construction site. You will also be able to avoid risks, like the risk of falling materials, which are a risk even for a leashed pet.
- Make sure your pet is microchipped. In a study of 7,704 stray animals, 74% of dogs and 63% of cats who had microchips were able to be returned to their pet owners. If your dog or cat does get away from you when construction stress is present, a microchip increases the chances of being reunited significantly.
For more information on pet safety around construction, visit:
- Cat Health Detective: Cats and Construction
- Trupanion: 7 Tips for Keeping Pets Calm During Construction
- PetMD: 5 Signs Your Dog Is Stressed (And How to Relieve It)
- Catster: 6 Signs Your Cat Is Stressed
Safety Tips for Pets Near a Home or Office Renovation
While your pup may try to help during your home renovation, it is best to to keep him away from risky situations.
Not all construction and construction-related stress takes place because of a large construction project in your community. You can create problems for your pet at home or work when you tackle a renovation project. In fact, because these projects take place in the pet’s own “area,” they can be even more stressful. Also, because the equipment for home renovation may be a bit smaller scale than that for a large community construction project, you may be less on guard than you would be if you lived near a construction site.
Unfortunately, that could be a devastating mistake. All it takes is one moment when the door is left open by a construction crewmember, and your pet gets spooked to send him running out the door. If you are tackling a home or office construction project, here are some safety tips to help make sure your pet is safe.
- Make sure your pet can find his potty space. Whether a dog who needs access to the outdoors or a cat who needs to get to the litter box, make sure that your pet can take care of these needs easily to avoid unwanted stress or potty training regression.
- Keep routines in place. Don’t make this time a time when you shake up your pet’s routine. Try to keep the schedule as similar as possible to the schedule you have when you are not having renovations done.
- Introduce your pet to any strangers that are coming to your home or office during construction. When you introduce your pet to your construction crew, you alleviate some of the anxiety he is experiencing. This is particularly true for dogs because they tend to trust any people their pack leader appears to trust. However, don’t expect your pet to become instant buddies with the construction crew. You actually would not want this, because your pet needs to stay away from the work site. However, if your pet knows the intruders are “safe,” he will be less likely to create a ruckus or experience high-stress levels when they come each day.
- Consider boarding your pets. Construction is extremely stressful for pets, and they aren’t going to manage that stress as well as you because they don’t understand what is happening. If you have the option to remove your pet from your home during the construction period, do so. Boarding your dog or sending your cat to stay with a friend will help protect them from the stress of hammering, sawing, drilling and the rest of the sounds of construction. If this expense is more than you can handle for the duration of your construction job, find out from your contractor if any specific days will be particularly noisy, and elicit help on those days.
- Block easy exits. Your construction crew will probably need to leave windows and doors open as they bring materials in and keep the space properly aired out. However, this creates a risk, because your pet will see these as an easy exit. Ensure your pet is properly protected by barricading her in a space that does not have access to these easy exits.
- Drown out the noise. If it’s not possible to completely remove the pet from home, find a semi-quiet area to contain your pet, and use white noise, music or some similar noise-blocker to help reduce the exposure to the noise. Even turning the TV on can help your pet feel calmer. Remember, noise is extremely stressful to most animals, and they can hear much more acutely than you can.
- Be aware of the risk of dust. Dust from construction can cause respiratory distress in your pet. There is no way to avoid dust altogether, but your construction crew can take steps to minimize it. Dust barriers, air scrubbers, and tools with dust extractors are all options to help limit the amount of dust that is sent back into the air during construction, so ask your construction crew to use these measures.
- Use safe materials. When the construction project is done, your dog or cat may be tempted to sniff or even lick the newly painted and stained surfaces throughout your home. Using materials that are low in smelly, volatile organic compounds can help limit the risk from this natural behavior.
- Ask for an alert when dangerous chemicals are being used. Sometimes it’s not possible to avoid the use of toxic or irritating substances that are dangerous for pets, but your construction crew can warn you if they are going to use these things. Remove your pets from the home when dangers are present.
- Ask to know what chemicals are being used. Be proactive about monitoring the substances being brought into your space and around your pets. You are the most invested in the health and wellbeing of your pets, so own that role.
- Perform tasks outdoors whenever possible. Cutting boards, spraying items and even painting paneling are tasks that can be done outside, instead of inside. The more tasks that can be completed outside, the fewer irritations your pet will have to face.
- Check the house or office before releasing your pet. At the end of the workday, thoroughly check the space to ensure there are no dangers present before you let your pet out of confinement. If the area being worked on does not look safe for pets, block it off while you release your pet into the rest of the house.
- Communicate your pet’s needs and your plan of care to the construction crew. While you do need to be reasonable because a construction team isn’t going to be able to work silently just to keep your pet calm, make sure they know that you have a pet, where the pet will be and how you intend to handle your pet during the construction process.
- Keep your pet exercised. Whether you have play time after the construction work is done for the day or keep up with your dog’s regular walks, exercise will help lower anxiety levels and keep your pet calmer during the construction project.
For more tips on keeping your pet safe when you’re tackling a construction project, consider these resources:
- Mosby Building Arts: Keeping Your Pet Safe During a Remodel
- United Rent a Fence: For the Home Owner – Managing Pets During Home Construction
- Get Piper: 7 Ways to Keep Your Kids and Pets Safe During Home Renovations
- Helvetika: Aloha Construction and How to Protect Your Pets During House Renovations
- Canidae: Home Remodeling Hazards for Pets
Tips for Keeping Pets Safe Near Farms and Farm Equipment
Farm equipment can potentially injure pets if used incorrectly or recklessly.
The farm life can seem like a pet’s dream. Wide spaces, barns full of nice, tantalizing smells – these are all the things that modern house pets dream of, right? Maybe, but farm life also brings some risks to pets that they won’t face in a home. Tractors, earthmovers, cranes, skid loaders and trailers of all shapes and sizes are a serious risk for the farm pet. Larger animals with heavy hooves can also be a risk for the farm dog or cat.
So if you live on or near a farm, what do you need to do to protect your dog? Thankfully, most animals that live near farms and farm equipment learn quickly how to stay safe on their own, but there are still measures you can and should take to protect your pet. Here’s what you need to know.
- Invest in the right fencing. Fencing on farms needs to keep pet animals out of areas where large equipment or large animals may be working. Whether you live on the farm or near it, make sure your dog doesn’t have access to areas that should be off-limits. Remember that many types of livestock fencing have gaps that will allow a dog or cat access to the area, even while keeping your pet out, so inspect the fencing to ensure that it’s adequate.
- Watch dogs around livestock. Livestock and dogs pose several risks. First, livestock is tantalizing for dogs to chase and kill. Even those dogs that have seemingly little interest chasing wild animals or other pets may get excited when around confined farm animals. Second, livestock, particularly if it is much larger than the dog, can hurt or even kill a dog with a misplaced footstep or well-aimed kick.
- Operate equipment with an eye out for pets. If you are operating farm equipment on a farm that has pets or is near a home with pets, keep your eyes trained for those animals. It only takes a moment for a dog or cat to dart out in front of a tractor, leading to tragedy. Even with all necessary safety precautions in place, it’s still possible for a pet to get loose and under the wheels or treads of a piece of equipment, and with devastating consequences.
- Check engines for sleeping cats. Cats are notorious for curling up on a warm engine on a cool fall evening. Before starting up equipment, check the engine compartment for any sleeping felines. Cats and dogs can sometimes find large wheels on tractors and other pieces of equipment a nice place for a snooze, so check these as well before starting up the equipment.
- Keep pets away from toxic chemicals and pesticides. These can be fatal if ingested, and many smells interesting to pets. Keep them stored securely in a place where your animals cannot access them.
- Know the dangers of manure pit fumes. Manure pits can create toxic gases that are deadly to pets. Hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and methane gas are all hazards created in manure pits. Make sure your pet stays far from any manure pits to stay safe.
- Insist on proper obedience commands. If you live on or near a farm, you need to insist that your pet is taught proper obedience. Often, farm pets are given more freedom than regular house pets, but they still need to know basic obedience commands. For dogs specifically, come, sit, stay, lie down and leave it are all commands that are critical to their safety.
- Skip the pickup truck ride. In the country, it’s common to see dogs enjoying a ride with their owners in the bed of a pickup truck. However, while this may make your pet happy, it is quite dangerous. If your pet sees something that is intriguing, there’s nothing to stop him from jumping out of bed and having a series accident. Even dogs that typically stay put can be jostled out of the bed when you hit a particularly rough patch of road. Also, flying debris can injure your dog’s ears, eyes or nose. Keep the dog in the cab or leave her at home.
- Don’t be afraid to contain your dog. Yes, dogs on farms tend to have more freedom than other dogs, but this doesn’t mean they have to be allowed to roam free at all times. If you aren’t able to watch your dog, consider confining him. This can help limit the risk of injury, illness or accidents.
- Watch carefully for signs of injury or illness. Farm pets, and particularly farm cats, are easy to forget about. They do their job, and you do yours. Make sure you regularly check your pet for signs of injury or illness and get medical attention right away if you spot a problem. Check their skin, their gait, their eyes, and their ears regularly. Remember, most injuries or illness will not get better on their own, so get help if it’s needed.
- Keep barn cats locked up at night. Create a routine where your barn cats come to a safe room for dinner at night, then confine them. This will help reduce the risk of fatalities from wildlife and accidents around livestock.
- Use breakaway collars. If you are going to place a collar on your farm pet, make sure it is a breakaway option. If the pet gets tangled with a tractor or fence, you want to ensure that she can break free easily.
For more information about keeping your pets safe near farm equipment, visit:
- National Ag Safety Database: Paws for Farm Safety – Animal Safety
- Hobby Farms: Will Your Dog Attack Livestock?
- Farm and Dairy: How to Care for a Barn Kitten
- Humane Society: Home Sweet Home – How to Bring an Outside Cat Indoors
- Shelter Me, Inc.: How to Care for Outdoor Cats and Barn Cats
Tips for Senior or Special Needs Pets
Senior and special needs pets require extra attention and care during construction and renovations.
All of these tips for helping your pet around construction sites and farm equipment are critical, but when you have a special needs pet or an older pet, you may need to take even more precautions. Pets with disabilities or pets that are older are even more prone to stress and other problems from construction and renovation. They are also more fragile, so if your pet is injured, the injuries are more likely to be serious or fatal.
Some of these tips will apply to senior or special needs pets in all scenarios, while others will be specific during renovation and construction projects. If you have a special needs animal that you love, here is what you need to know.
- Remember that stress is even worse for older or special needs pets. The stress of construction, including the extra sounds and smells, is even harder for a pet with unique needs to handle. You need to be aware of this, and take measures to reduce that stress for your pet as much as possible. Watch vigilantly for signs of stress in dogs and signs of stress in cats.
- Routine is critical for older and special needs pets. Keeping the routine in place is even more important when a pet relies on that routine for comfort. Avoid making too many changes to a routine during construction. If you take a morning walk every day, try to keep that up! If your pet sleeps in a bed by yours, keep that his normal spot.
- Expect some potty accidents. Older and special needs pets have more trouble controlling bowel and bladder function, so don’t be surprised if you deal with a few more potty accidents when construction is underway. The changes in your home are confusing to your pet. That said, if the changes in bowel or urinary habits persist after the construction is over, then it might be a sign of another problem. Talk to your vet if you are concerned.
- Watch for behavior changes. While you can expect some behavior changes during construction or renovation, make sure you watch for anything too extensive. Specifically, if your pet stops eating or drinking, it’s a sign that the stress has become too much. Also, for an older or special needs pet, lack of food and water can be extremely dangerous.
- Understand their special needs and health problems. Older pets often have poor vision or hearing. The vibrations from construction work or the presence of unusual people can create additional stress because they cannot hear or see what is happening. Make accommodations by ensuring they know you are calm and giving them the chance to smell the areas where work is happening.
- Do not let them loose around equipment. Older dogs or dogs with special needs are going to struggle with slower reaction times. If they are near large construction equipment, they are at higher risk of being injured. They just can’t get out of the way quickly if the equipment is coming at them. Keep them contained or on a leash at all times if there is equipment on the property.
- Create a comfort zone in your house. Create an area in your house away from the construction zone that is dedicated as your dog or cat’s “comfort zone.” Place a comfortable bed, a few stimulating toys, access to food and water, and for cats, access to the litter box and a scratching post. Insist that the construction crew does not go in this area.
- Offer plenty of love and reassurance. Remember, you are the ultimate source of comfort for an older or disabled pet, so make sure you are present. Give ample reassurance during this stressful and unusual time.
- Board with caution. Boarding a pet during construction is often a wise choice, but with special needs pets, you need to be careful. Make sure you choose a boarding facility that can handle your pet’s unique needs, or opt to have the pet stay with a trusted friend or family member instead of in a commercial boarding facility.
For more information about keeping your senior or special needs pet safe, whether around construction or in all areas of life, visit:
- PetMD: 5 Tips to Keep Your Senior Dog Healthy
- Petfinder: Caring for Your Senior Dog: 5 Important Things to Know
- PawCulture: 11 Ways to Keep Your Senior Dog Happy
- International Cat Care: Elderly Cats – Special Considerations
- Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: The Special Needs of the Senior Cat
- The Animal Rescue Site: How to Keep Senior Cats Happy and Healthy
- Psychology Today: Keeping Dogs with Special Needs Happy, Healthy and Active
Construction and Your Pet – Safety Is up to You!
Construction sites, farm equipment, and even minor renovations can all pose serious hazards to your dog or cat. In each of these scenarios, your pet’s safety is ultimately your responsibility. Don’t shirk your duties and expect a positive outcome. Be proactive to ensure your pet is safe and cared for properly during this time, and you can come through this period of construction with your companion safely by your side.