Animal Cruelty Information for Teachers
AS NATURAL “EXPLORERS,” DON’T ALL CHILDREN SOMETIMES HARM ANIMALS?
Absolutely not. While some children kill insects, few torture pets or other small creatures. If allowed to harm animals without penalty, children are more likely to commit violent acts later in life. Children who abuse animals are generally involved in bullying, vandalism, and more serious crimes, including arson. Animal cruelty, like any other form of violence, should never be attributed to a stage of development. Rather, it should be considered a warning that a child may be experiencing some form of psychological or physical distress. Not all animal cruelty is intentional, however, and a child’s acts of innocent exploration should be turned into opportunities for humane education. Telling stories, role playing, and creative writing can help reveal if a child is in distress and can help the child develop empathy. Additionally, teaching by example is one of a teacher’s most powerful tools. Efforts to rescue a bug or feed the birds will make a lasting impression.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN INNOCENT EXPLORATION AND CALCULATED ANIMAL CRUELTY?
Innocent exploration may come of simple curiosity, but calculated animal cruelty is motivated by a desire to harm. While even innocent acts of cruelty should be addressed, it is particularly important to intervene when a child is insensitive to the obvious distress of an animal, repeats a harmful behavior, or derives pleasure from causing an animal pain.
HOW CAN I FIND OUT IF A CHILD HAS WITNESSED, EXPERIENCED, OR PERPETRATED CRUELTY?
A child perpetrator may boast of harming an animal, either verbally or in a story; a child who has witnessed animal cruelty may recount an incident that took place at home or in the neighborhood.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I SUSPECT A CHILD HAS ABUSED AN ANIMAL OR REPORTS THAT A FAMILY MEMBER HAS ABUSED AN ANIMAL?
Discuss your suspicions with the school principal, psychologist, resource officer, or a law enforcement officer assigned to the school. Review the child’s behavior, including attendance, peer relations, and academic performance. A parent/teacher/principal consultation is recommended before further action is taken. Like any other serious crime, animal cruelty should be reported to the proper authorities. In most jurisdictions a report should be filed with the humane investigator at the local animal welfare agency. If there is no such organization in your area, report the incident to the police or sheriff’s department. The child’s parents should be made aware of the necessity of such a report. Based on the history of the student and the school team’s findings, it may be necessary to file an additional report with the local child welfare agency. Often, children who abuse animals are abused themselves. If a child reports that a family member is abusing an animal, a school team conference is necessary before filing reports with animal welfare and child welfare agencies.
WILL I BE REQUIRED TO TESTIFY?
If the case goes to court, you could be asked to testify at some point.
CAN THE CYCLE OF ABUSE BE BROKEN?
Yes. According to the National Research Council, early prevention efforts are more likely to reduce adult crime than are criminal sanctions applied later in life. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Commission on Violence and Youth encourages the adoption of broad and coordinated initiatives to prevent all youth violence or mitigate its effects.
HOW CAN I PROMOTE KINDNESS, RESPECT, AND COMPASSION THROUGH THE CURRICULUM?
Humane education, introduced by classroom teachers, concerned parents, or local animal welfare agencies, should be an integral part of schools. You will be an effective agent for humane education if your lesson plans include peer mediation, kindness to animals, and conflict resolution. Kind and compassionate objectives can encourage empathetic responses and ensure the safety of children and animals. Humane Education is standard in most states and should be part of every school curriculum. spcaLA offers a Teaching Love & Compassion program that a four-week long violence prevention program designed to teach empathy and compassion to at-risk youth. spcaLA offers a comprehensive manual on the TLC program. This manual includes history on the cycle of violence, budgetary needs, training schedules, daily activity schedules, staffing requirements and all components of implementing a TLC from start to finish. The program is available for purchase for $450.00.
If you would like more information on TLC or are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact us via email or phone:
Violence Prevention & Humane Education Department