Exotic pets in school teach important values

Whether you’re in grade school or veterinary school, September means heading off to class and often leaving beloved pets at home. But a new study shows that having pets—even a fish—in the classroom teaches values that aren’t found in any textbook.

The study, published July 22, was sponsored by the American Humane Society in collaboration with the Pet Care Trust and based on nearly 1,200 surveys and interviews with U.S. and Canadian teachers who had a pet in the classroom for at least three months.

Study results showed that teachers see classroom pets as having real educational, leadership, and character-building values such as compassion, empathy, respect, and responsibility for other living things.

Challenges include teaching children how to cope with pet loss, the cost of ownership for teachers, and responsibility for the animal when school is not in session.

Many exotic pets were favored in the classroom. In fact, in order of popularity, pets included:

  • Fish (31%)
  • Guinea pig (13.7%)
  • Hamster (10.5%)
  • Bearded dragon (7.8%)
  • Leopard gecko (7.3%)

This study is Phase I of the “Pets in the Classroom” study. Phase II will measure the impact of classroom pets on children in the areas of increased social skills, decreased problem behaviors, and improved academic competence.




Photo credit: © iStock/Milous

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