What you should know
Young people who witness or commit acts of cruelty to animals may disclose these at school. If that should happen, here are some points to keep in mind:
- Families in which pets are abused or neglected have a higher occurrence of child abuse or neglect.
- In an Alberta SPCA study (2012) of animal abuse in domestic violence situations, 85% of women reported that their children witnessed the threat or harm to the animal. In half of those cases, it was the child’s own pet.
- Children who are allowed to harm animals without penalty are more likely to commit violent acts later in life.
- Children who abuse animals are often involved in bullying, vandalism, and more serious crimes.
- Children who commit serious acts of cruelty to animals are 7 to 8 times more likely to have been sexually abused.
What should I do if a child discloses animal cruelty?
You can start by contacting the Alberta SPCA. Our staff can discuss the case with you to determine appropriate action. If warranted, an Animal Protection Officer will investigate and work to protect the animal.
Child welfare authorities should also be informed. Social workers are becoming more aware of the fact that animal abuse can be an indicator of other problems in the home.
Sometimes an educational approach may be more appropriate. We could provide a speaker to address a specific issue, or to give a more general presentation about the humane treatment of animals.
How can I encourage students to treat animals properly?
The principles of Humane Education can be adopted to promote a circle of caring that includes both people and animals. Through its approach and subject content, humane education promotes an understanding of the human responsibility to care for – and about – all living things and the earth we share. You can practice humane education by looking for ways to include examples of kindness in all your subject areas – this website has many ideas and resources. Most importantly, you should model kindness and respect through your actions, words, and choice of teaching methods and resources.
Where can I get information and resources?
Subscribe to our e-newsletter for teacher in Alberta, which will keep you informed and updated on issues and resources. You can also check out the links below.