Happy Monday (said no one ever, unless they were being sarcastic)! Going to school is great—we love learning. But let’s be honest: There’s nothin’ like going home at the end of the day. But not everyone has it so good. Here’s why it’s wrong to have a class ‘pet.’
1. Animals who are kept as class “pets” usually never get to leave. Their lives are exactly the same every single day. And when animals are confined to cages in classrooms, their needs are rarely met and their natural instincts are thwarted. For example, mice and other small mammals are nocturnal (they like to sleep during the day and party all night), yet they’re kept in a brightly lit place all day.
2. Living in a cage sucks for obvious reasons, and there are serious health concerns for class “pets.” They can die of heatstroke in classrooms during warm weekends or die in the cold when the heat is turned off after everyone else goes home.
3. While you get to go to soccer practice and run around, socialize, go home and relax, eat a yummy dinner, watch TV, work on a school project, text your friends, etc., Pebbles the classroom hamster sits alone in a cage with nothing to do—for the 700th night in a row. It’s lonely and frustrating—it’s a life of deprivation.
“But that’s not true—in fact, in my class, we all take turns bringing Pebbles home. She teaches us responsibility, and my family always takes really good care of her!” I’m glad you brought this up.
4. It’s not an animal’s job to teach responsibility to young people. Would you want to be completely reliant on someone who’s still learning about that? This is someone the animal has no choice but to depend on for food, water, grooming, attention, affection, healthcare, mental stimulation, cleanliness, exercise—everything. I wouldn’t trust no youngin’ with my life, and animals shouldn’t be forced to, either.
5. The never-ending stress of being transported to unfamiliar locations with varying conditions, foods, temperatures, noises, and faces can be very traumatizing and distressing to animals—especially small, virtually defenseless prey animals.
6. Your family might take great care of Pebbles. Maybe you feed her carrots and let her explore the house under supervision and gently stroke her head while she falls asleep. But maybe Timmy’s family puts beer in her water dish as a “joke,” bangs on her cage, handles her roughly, drops her, and forgets to feed her. There’s no way of knowing and no way of protecting Pebbles from what might happen at other kids’ houses.
If Pebbles manages to avoid death by heatstroke, infection, being torn apart by someone’s dog while in their home, etc., we also have to consider emergencies that could arise.
7. Most schools don’t have emergency evacuation plans in place for the animals in their classrooms in case of a fire, flood, or other disaster—meaning that Pebbles may be left behind to burn, drown, or otherwise endure a potentially agonizing death.
And it’s not just Pebbles we need to worry about. What about the children?!
8. Millions of kids suffer from allergies and asthma, which can be triggered or worsened by the presence of certain animals or animal bedding. Salmonella and other bacteria can be spread by handling reptiles and amphibians and the enclosures they’re kept in, and small mammals (such as hamsters, rabbits, chinchillas, guinea pigs, gerbils, rats, and mice) can carry transmittable diseases, too. They could also bite ya!
9. The following are just a few of the many incidents that have been reported to PETA (and many tragic cases aren’t even reported):
- Arlington, Texas: A group of high school students strangled a classroom “pet” ferret to death during class.
- Helena, Arkansas: A snake was taken out of his classroom enclosure and cooked to death in a school microwave.
- Lawrence, Kansas: A rabbit at the Hilltop Child Development Center died after his tail was apparently pulled off.
- Monterey, California: A goldfish being kept as a “pet” in a middle school classroom was killed after bleach was poured into his water.
Plus, it’s not just where Pebbles is going that we have to think about—it’s also where she came from.
10. If Pebbles was purchased from a pet store, she probably came from an awful breeding facility where she was kept in horrific conditions, deprived of proper veterinary care, and otherwise neglected and abused. A lot of times, that’s exactly the type of business teachers support when they buy a class “pet.”
You and your classmates can learn responsibility and develop respect for animals in countless ways that don’t put a single animal at risk. Participating in community service projects or caring for plants or a school garden can teach responsibility. And observing local wildlife, watching high-quality documentaries, or using computer programs are good ways to learn about life cycles and animal behavior.
What You Can Do
Speak up for animals at risk in your school and work to change your school’s policy, if necessary. Explain to involved staff members the cruelty inherent in the pet trade and in keeping animals in the classroom, along with the many risks that are involved and the message that students like you are sent. And follow up by sending a letter to your principal and school board members, asking them to implement a policy banning class “pets.” E-mail us at [email protected] if you need help!