How Can We Become an Animal Friendly School?
Animal friendly schools do a lot more than simply teach children about animals. They also encourage the teacher and the pupil to think about the animal’s needs and to develop a sense of care and responsibility for them.
What are the Benefits?
An animal friendly school:
- Teaches pupils about animals and their needs
- Teaches children that animals are relevant to everyday life
- Promotes a sense of responsibility and respect toward all living things
- Looks at important, contemporary moral and ethical issues such as animal experimentation and the effect of us, as humans, on the environment
- Is aware of and abides by animal welfare legislation
Should we have a classroom pet?
The DSPCA strongly discourages the keeping of animals in classrooms/schools.
Because classrooms can be noisy and frightening places for animals and it’s difficult to look after any animal's needs in this type of environment. This applies to all animals, including goldfish fish.
The DSPCA believes responsible pet care and animal welfare can be taught in schools without keeping animals captive. Studying an animal in its natural environment should aim to cause minimal disturbance whilst maximising educational opportunity.
We believe there must be an explicit animal welfare education rationale for using animals in education; and legislation relating to animals must be considered in the development of programmes of study.
Where animals are kept in schools proper provision should be made for their physical and mental wellbeing.
We strongly disagree with schools and colleges using classroom pets to increase their attendance figures with the understanding that if students don’t attend the animal will not be fed or taken care of.
We believe this to be an inappropriate approach and gives a negative impression of how the school/college views its responsibility for the welfare of animals within its care, which may have a detrimental effect on the students' attitudes toward animal welfare.
Schools have a duty of care to ensure proper provision is made for the welfare needs of any animals for which they are responsible. This applies not only during school terms but also during the holidays.
NB! However, it must be said, when giving an education talk or workshop, the DSPCA Education Officers sometimes bring along an experienced, trained dog but only when the animal is completely happy to accompany them and when the situation permits it. We do this because, as animal welfare officers, we are trained in observing the dog’s behaviour and recognizing their specific needs and requirement. We also always adhere to their 5 freedoms at all times. If we feel one, any or all of these five freedoms are in danger of being compromised/breached, we do not allow them accompany us on education talks.
Here are alternatives to the use of animals in the classroom.
- Books, DVDs, videos.
- Observing animals in their natural habitat –without disturbing them.
- Building a wildlife area within the school grounds
- Using soft, cuddly toys
- Role playing and drama activities
If a member of the school staff is responsible for an animal(s) on the school premises/grounds, then it is their responsibility to make sure that animal’s needs are met.
- The animal’s need to be in a suitable environment
- To be able to exhibit normal behaviour
- To have free availability to fresh food and water and a suitable diet
- To be socialized/housed with (or apart from) other animals
- To be protected from pain, suffering, injury and disease.
It’s important to understand that your responsibility does not end when the school day ends. You must continue to take care of the animal outside of school hours, including weekends and holidays.
Your personal responsibility exists irrespective of whether the animal was purchased by the school or is owned by one of the pupils, teachers or parents. If an animal’s needs are not being met whilst at school and beyond, criminal prosecutions could, in theory, be brought against all persons over the age of 16 who had responsibility for that animal(s), including school staff.
How can we, the DSPCA help your school?
The DSPCA’s FREE education talks, tours and workshops supports teachers to develop their students to become informed, responsible and active citizens, and helps schools to become more animal friendly.
Visit our education website at www.dspca.ie. Through this, we offer a variety of resources, linked to the Department of Education’s guidelines for the CSPE curriculum, which are free to download and include factsheets, activity sheets and photos.
After School Groups/Family/Youth Projects.
Animal welfare could be a priority for after-school groups, homework clubs, scout and guide groups, youth projects, etc., Children and young people with a special interest in animals will be eager to learn and all will benefit from the experience.
Visit our website at www.dspca.ie, click on ‘education’ then look at preschool, primary school or secondary school; depending on the age and ability of the group.
Visitors with animals and animal related events.
Many schools have visiting speakers who speak on animal related themes or hold animal related events but we would be concerned that the animal’s needs are not being met. The animal’s needs must be put first.
For example, animals are often transported in unsuitable conditions and are exposed to noise and unfamiliar surroundings which can cause distress.
The DSPCA is also opposed to events and fundraisers at schools involving the offer of animals as prizes.
Balloon releases are also dangerous to animals, especially as animals can eat them and possibly choke on the contents.
Here are a few animal friendly alternatives.
- A photographic pet show where pupils enter pictures of their family pets or favourite animals.
- A sponsored litter clearance.
The School Environment
Why not ask your local council to develop your school grounds in order to make them more animal friendly? This could include removing litter and other possible hazards. You could manage the area to encourage and protect wildlife.
Wildlife and conservation areas in schools can attract a wide range of wildlife and students can learn about animals and their natural habitats; even getting to explore environmental issues.
Every day, DSPCA inspectors rescue animals trapped by litter. Even rubbish that has been binned may end up open on a landfill site and could prove dangerous to animals.
- Encourage recycling and make sure your waste is binned safely in order it doesn’t harm animals.
- Plastic can openers – they can choke animals. Cut them up and bin them safely.
- Plastic bags – they can suffocate – tie a knot in the top of them and rip open the end of them before binning them properly.
- Broken bottles/glass can cut deeply – recycle properly and safely
- Balloons can choke and kill if eaten – cut them up and bin them properly.
- Tin cans – they can trap animals’ heads if they go inside looking for food. Take the lids off, Place lids inside and pinch shut the opening.
Our aim is the replacement of animal experiments with humane alternatives. We would encourage all cleaning staff to use cleaning products that have not been tested on animals.
Code of Conduct for Schools
- The DSPCA would ask schools to draw up a code of conduct for studying animals in their natural habitats.
- They should show respect for animals and places where animals live
- Never handle animals – instead draw pictures or use photographs instead
- Move quietly and slowly so as not to disturb animals and take care not to step on any animals that crawl or fly.
- Leave animals’ homes as you found them. If you turn over a rock or a log put them back exactly the same way as you found them.
- Do not litter
The DSPCA recommends you use the following checklist before taking students to an animal venue.
- Assess the animal welfare issues that may be raised and identify any health and safety considerations/regulations
- Ask students to think about the animals, their needs and their natural lifestyles before the visit and identify what they will be looking for and why
- Draw up a code of conduct for the visit to make sure students ensure that the disturbance to animals and their homes is kept to a strict minimum
- Highlight the animals’ needs and question whether they are being met throughout the visit and encourage students to focus on the quality of the animal’s environments
- Follow up on any animal welfare issues raised.