What are the issues with having pets to teach kids in the classroom.
After working with rodents in the lab for 7 years, the ethical concern for animal rights became undeniable. I became more compassionate and careful to treat all living creatures with dignity and respect. While certain teachers think that having animals in the classroom is beneficial for kid’s learning, there might be better solutions.
Having classroom pets is attractive. Teachers may think that they’re necessary tools for kids to learn how to take care of a sentient being. For example, you have to handle an animal differently than you would with a stuffed animal. Being around animals can be fun, you can learn how to take care of it, study its reproductive system and watch it grow. It can also help kids with social difficulties to form a bond.
The cost of this “learning” may not be worth it for the animals though. Animals are the classroom stars and they get a lot of attention, which may not be the healthiest lifestyle for them because they are usually preys. Hamsters, rabbits and guinea pigs may become easily fearful and can die of heart attack if they’re repeatedly touched by too many careless hands. They are usually the happiest when they’re unmanipulated. A classroom is full of inexperienced and enthusiastic kids is not likely to contribute to the well-being of an animal. Having animals in the classroom may also trigger allergies and asthma for kids. Some animals may be bite students if they feel ill-at-ease, threatened or uncomfortable.
The classroom isn’t an ideal sanctuary to raise a pet. Cages, terrariums and aquariums are often too small and unsuitable. Their natural instincts to go explore and move around are limited. Some rodents such as mice are nocturnal, meaning that they are active at night when there is no light. Interacting them during the day is quite disturbing for their sleep cycle. Being in a classroom also make them more vulnerable to illness due to the amount of stress. Their vet cares are often neglected as they are easily replaceable.
Then, what happens when people leave? Animals are often left behind during weekends and days off. Small animals are sensitive to temperature changes and may suffer from high heat or cold if someone isn’t around to monitor the classroom temperature. Sadly, they would also be left behind in case of an emergency (fire, flood, etc). During school breaks, animals are often given to a volunteer student to bring home. Accidents happen. Another animal in the house may attack it or eat it. Animals may be tortured by other juveniles who “just wanted to play” with them. Overall, finding care for the animals is an issue for part of the year.
Although teachers have good intentions, teaching kids to take care of an animal starts by not having one captive in the classroom. Teachers could bring their students on a school trip to a farm so kids can see animals in their environment. They could also bring them to an animal sanctuary, which is a refuge for wounded animals to teach them about compassion. They could add plants to the classroom to teach them about the cycle of life rather than using sentient beings.
Teachers may also bring up ethical issues regarding animal rights as a debate course. They can open the kids’ mind about being (partly) vegetarian/vegan or talk about other flexitarian diets. Adoption methods can also be discussed with kids. For example, adopting a pet from a rescue shelter might be a better option than paying for a breeder.
Teachers have the power to say no to classroom pets, even if there is already one in school. They can share information to the principal and school board members to try to change the animal’s living conditions. It’s not too late to do the right thing.
In conclusion, animals are living creatures that should not belong in the classroom. While teachers have the best intentions to enrich their kids with another experience, having an animal captive is not setting a good example. Animals are often neglected and over stressed. The market for small pets is affordable, therefore making them easily replaceable. Teachers can find creative solutions to teach their kids and show them how we can live with animals. Animals’ well-being should not be compromise for teaching somebody something. All lives should be treated with respect and not be used as a tool.
Photo credit: @warriorpigs