Things To Consider Before Getting a Classroom Pet

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Things to consider before you get a classroom animal.

Children happy about classroom animal

Animals provide a hands-on opportunity to learn about animals’ needs and behaviour. They help develop a sense of responsibility and empathy. In addition, interaction with animals can help children develop their own sense of self.

However, a classroom animal is a living creature with special needs. Problems arise when teachers and students are not fully prepared. Considerable time and effort is required to care for an animal properly. A classroom pet is a significant addition to a teacher’s responsibilities. The decision to include a fulltime classroom animal requires careful research, planning and personal judgement. Use this information sheet to help you in that decision.

Being a Humane Role Model

Children
happy about classroom animal

Like it or not, teachers are role models to their students. When you have a classroom animal, students notice how you treat the animal. They pick up the attitudes you project through words and actions. Your behaviour to animals will influence your students’ behaviour and attitudes. To be a humane role model you must:

  1. consistently provide all the care the pet needs
  2. establish a classroom code of humane treatment
  3. remain vigilant in detecting and preventing students’ overhandling, mistreatment, or theft of the animal.

The Teacher’s Pet

The best ways of ensuring you are a humane role model to your students is to adopt the classroom pet as your own. This shows you are willing to take full responsibility for the animal – both at school and at home. It shows that caring for an animal is a fulltime commitment. It solves the problem of what to do when school is closed over evenings, weekends and school holidays. These times are hard for classroom pets. Air-conditioning, heating and lights are often turned off. There is no-one to assist the animal should it become ill or even die. A common “solution” – sending a classroom pet home with students – may compromise the animal’s welfare, upset parents or convey the unintended message that animals are a part-time responsibility.

What classroom animal to get

Children
happy about classroom animal

If you have taken the test overleaf and have decided that a classroom pet is for you then the next step is to think about the kind of animal. Don’t ignore your personal preferences – the animal’s primary care will fall to you so it is important you feel comfortable. Consult your local RSPCA or Animal Welfare organisation for advice. Visit the WOAW Resource Room, read companion animal care books, talk to your vet and other animal owners – find out as much as you can before you make the final decision. The RSPCA receives many unwanted ex-classroom pets, so it is important that you are ready for a lifetime commitment to that animal.

Wild animals are generally not suitable as classroom animals. They belong in their natural habitat. When taken out of this setting, they require specialist care that is unlikely to be met in the school classroom. All Australian natives are protected – permits are required from your state’s Environmental Protection Agency for specific educational use of most natives. Choosing wildlife as a classroom animal could mistakenly give out the wrong messages and encourage students to remove wildlife from their natural habitat.

When selecting a classroom animal, consider its ethology (animals’ behaviour in the natural habitat). Avoid noctural animals that sleep in the day. Students may become disinterested or tempted to disturb the animal when it sleeps.

Keep in mind that your local RSPCA may be a good source of healthy animals in need of good homes. Should you choose to adopt one as your classroom animal, use the experience to teach students valuable lessons about the importance of and need for animal shelters.

Take the test!

Once you are comfortable with being a humane role model and taking personal responsibility for the classroom pet, take the test to see if a classroom pet would be an appropriate addition to your classroom.

Take the Test!

Material adapted from material published in For the Birds!, – Activities to Replace Chick Hatching in the K – 6 Classroom, NAHEE, 1998 (the youth education division of the Humane Society of America). Teachers are encouraged to reproduce this material for distribution to other teachers. Reproduction for sale or publication is prohibited.

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