Joanne Pentangelo, ASPCA Manager of Humane EducationMay 9, 2008
Hey, parents, check out our chat about raising the next generation of animal lovers! Come explore topics like teaching kids how to respect animals, even when their parents hunt, or how to explain to a four-year-old why going to the circus may be fun for people, but is not so much fun for the animals. We at the ASPCA are grateful for your interest in showing kids how to care for the furry, feathered and finned members of the family.
My four-year-old niece recently asked about going to see the circus. I don't want to take her because of the abuses that circus animals suffer. How can I explain this without scaring her?
Tough issue! If I were talking to my own four-year-old, I would tell her that I’d rather do something elsethat it doesn’t make me happy to see animals in the circus and that I don't think they’re happy performing there. Then I’d suggest an alternative like a good zoological park, where animals can be seen in more natural environments.
I also have a four-year-old. What if his school was taking him on a circus trip and the whole class was going? I don't want to be the "freak" mom. If I kept him from going, his teacher would probably roll her eyes at me. So my question is, how do you suggest parents approach teachers? Also, is it worth it to keep a child from enjoying a trip with his class?
You know, Elyse, as I've gotten older I don't really care if a teacher rolls her eyes at me. Frankly, I would not let my four-year-old go on a class trip to the circus, not only because it's the circus, but because I think that it’s a complicated trip for a four-year-old. In fact, I wouldn’t let my kid go on any field trip unless I was chaperoning. If you feel uncomfortable having your child attend the circus, then he probably shouldn't attend. I would have a great Mommy & Me day instead and plan activities that you're happy to share with your child!
My son's day camp offers catch and release fishing. I'm uncomfortable with him participating in this, but don't want to come off as an overly involved mom. Any suggestions?
When I was a Cub Scout leader, there was a huge fishing derby that all of the "packs" looked forward to each summer, and I was very uncomfortable with this. I remember voicing my concerns and being assured that catch-and-release doesn't hurt the fish. I still never bought into it. Just last week, I was in Florida with my family on vacation. We were strolling along a fishing pier and there were some men practicing catch-and-release. My 15-year-old son said to me, "What is wrong with those men? Why do they want to torture the fish? Can't they just look at the scenery?" Perhaps because of our influence, my son empathized with the fish. I'd let your son participate if he has a desire to. I don't really think that it causes pain to the fish, but I maybe eventually he’ll realize that fish don't exist for our entertainment and will choose not to do this.
Thanks. I've asked via camp forms that he not be encouraged to engage in this activity, but to allow him to do so if he chooses. Maybe the influence of his parents will keep him from doing so in the first place.
I agree. Don't encourage or discourage. Let him choose.
My sister-in-law has three small children and many animals who are loved and considered family, yet her husband hunts. It's only a matter of time before the father wants to bring his kids hunting with him. Doesn't it send kids a mixed message to have pets and then go kill animals?
You would think so, wouldn't you? On a personal level, I disagree with hunting and cannot understand the motivation behind it. The ASPCA does not endorse hunting either. However, many hunters have pets, and their pets are loved and cared for. I don’t think that because one hunts they necessarily aren’t good pet owners. I do believe, however, that children take on many of the traits that we model. Therefore, if hunting is an acceptable sport in the home, chances are your child will want to participate in hunting as well some day.
That's exactly my fear. Is it any of my business? Should I try to stop him from taking them hunting? I would have no idea how to do this effectively. I know it's a big no-no to tell other people how to parent, so I don't know where to draw the line when it comes to protecting animals.
It certainly is a big no-no to tell people what values to instill in their children. I think that education is the key. If you have the opportunity to let your sister-in-law know in a calm way how you feel and why, maybe you can change her position. It's difficult to see someone who you love doing something that you're against, and involving children in it. If you want to help the kids, be the best loving uncle or aunt you can be and offer to take them on trips where they can see and appreciate animals without hurting them.
Are there any plans to send us monthly emails with parenting tips? If so, is this something that parents could sign up for?
That sounds like a plan! Hey, parents, is this something that you would like? If so, let us know! We do have a monthly parent newsletter with great information, but this might be useful as well.
I want to be a teacher, and when I get there I was thinking about seeing if I could hold assemblies to teach the next generation of pet parents how to prevent cruelty. What do you think?
You don't have to wait until you’re a teacher to bring humane education programming into schools, Vonnie! You can volunteer with your local SPCA or animal welfare organization and learn how to do this. I find that intimate classroom settings work better than assemblies, though. They’re more personal and it's easier to hold the attention of 25 kids rather than 250!
How can parents advocate for humane education in their children's schools?
I think the best way is to get involved! Go to PTA meetings, get to know your school's curriculum coordinators, volunteer to arrange for a humane educator to visit your child's classthe list is endless! You can also offer to visit the class yourself and talk with the kids about humane education. Good luck!
I am a junior in high school and I really admire animal cops. I was curious about how to get animal cop services started in my county? I'm really interested in at least attempting to start a program for animal rescue as a part of my senior project. Any information you can give me would be of great help.
Good for you for wanting to make a difference! Starting a humane law enforcement (HLE) department or animal rescue department is a big undertaking. I would visit our website page that describes how to become an HLE officer. You can also contact your local animal control and animal welfare organizations. They may have already started programs that you can learn from. Best of luck, and if you get it off the ground, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org! We love to hear about teens making a difference in the lives of animals.
Hi, Joanne! I've got a baby coming and two cats at home. I know people often get rid of animals when they have a baby, which the ASPCA obviously doesn’t agree with. What would you say to those people to urge them against doing this? How would you suggest building an animal/child bond from the very beginning?
Hi, Elyse! Congrats on your new addition! I feel so sad when I hear that people get rid of their pets because of their baby's arrival. There is no reason to do this. You can start preparing your pet long before your baby comes home. Play a tape recording of baby sounds and let your pet become familiar with the smell of the nursery. After your baby arrives, give your pet special cuddling sessions and some time alone with you so that he knows he’s still an important part of your life!
Hi, Joanne! I would love to hear more about the ASPCA’s book club.
I’m so glad you asked! Henry's Book Club features ASPCA award-winning books each month for elementary-aged kids and young adults to read. We provide guides for starting your own book clubs, and during the school year we offer live online discussions with the authors of these books. Thanks for asking and please join in!
Will the book club continue over the summer or is it just for the school year?
The book club will continue through the summer! Kids still read in the summer, right? And we’ll be there with great books and thought-provoking questions!