Is a pond a danger to my pets or children?
A pond is a great addition to any garden and can be a valuable way to teach children about wildlife, giving them the chance to see plants and animals change with the seasons. But ponds can also be a potential safety hazard for children and for pets, even if it is relatively shallow. Fortunately, all of the potential dangers can be avoided by taking a few basic precautions to keep your pets and children safe.
Many of the risks associated with ponds can be averted with sensible pond design. This is obviously easier to do if you are starting from scratch, but most existing ponds can also be modified to remove the outside possibility of danger. If you are starting from scratch, a raised pond will provide you the best level of safety as children and pets will not be able to easily fall in.
A surrounding barrier is the best way to protect children and pets from existing ponds, and there are a number of ways to do this that aren’t intrusive. Strategically-arranged plants or rocks can be effective, but children and pets can be quite resourceful at getting into areas you’d prefer them not to, so a solid wooden fence is the most effective barrier. A wire mesh across the surface of the pond or a safety grid that lies just below the surface can also be an effective back-up.
One thing to bear in mind is the proximity of decorations such as bird baths or statues. If they are close to the pond, make sure that they are properly secured or moved away from the water, as a young child might climb them and cause them to topple in the water. The same applies to overhanging branches, which should be cut back to avoid the risk of their breaking while a child or a cat is climbing on them.
Many ponds have a pond pump to turnover the water and keep it healthy. These generally do not present a danger in themselves to children or pets, but care should be taken to make sure that the cable to the pump is buried at least two feet underground to avoid the risk of your pet dog chewing through it.
If the worst happens and a pet or a child falls into the pond, the design of the pond itself can be a safety measure. If the pond slopes gently, it can help to stop your child from getting in too deep. Loose rocks or steps placed in the pond itself will also offer a safe way to climb out, as the sides and bottom of a pond can often be slippery with algae.
Finally, you should consider investing in a pool alarm as a fail-safe. This useful piece of equipment activates a loud warning sound if anything falls into the water. Most pond alarms float on the surface so may not be appropriate if you have fish in the pond, but there are models that sit just above the surface and will activate if anything gets too close to the water, which will give you time to prevent a pet or a child from falling in.