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Home > Issues Facing Teachers > Get Involved

Say 'No' to Class 'Pets'

Rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, frogs, parakeets, rats, snakes, fish, turtles, and countless other animals who are used as teaching "tools" or class "pets" are abused and neglected in school classrooms around the country.

Students can and do learn about responsibility, animal behavior, and hands-on science without the presence of animals in their classrooms, and there are far more constructive ways to learn about living beings than by holding them captive in hazardous and neglectful school environments.

The following cases, which involve the abuse of animals in U.S. schools, were reported to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals:

  • A snake was stolen from his classroom enclosure and cooked alive inside a school's microwave.
  • Two chinchillas were barbarically beaten and left for dead.
  • A rabbit in a day-care classroom showed symptoms of illness but was not taken to a veterinarian. He died without receiving care for his condition.
  • Four pigs had an unknown caustic chemical poured onto them, resulting in painful burns to their backs, ears, and necks.
  • A lamb was stolen from a school agriculture building, spray-painted, duct-taped to the outside of the building, and left alone overnight in freezing temperatures.

Even classroom "pets" can suffer from neglect and abuse. Once animals are brought into schools, their natural tendencies and instincts are often ignored. For example, mice and most other small mammals are nocturnal, yet they are kept in brightly lit classrooms and removed from their cages during the day. Live mice or rats are also fed to snakes and other nondomestic animals so that they can demonstrate "predation" to children, who laugh, scream, or turn away.

School's Out! Now What?
When the school year ends, these "pets" frequently end up in already-overworked shelters or at the homes of students who claim that they can provide "good homes." Unfortunately, important screening procedures—such as home checks and interviews with the entire family—are often overlooked by hurried, overworked teachers at the end of the school year, and this oversight can lead to tragic consequences for animals.

Even if a student has behaved responsibly toward animals in the classroom, his or her siblings might be abusive or reckless, or the student might become bored with the animal. Once at a student's home, many classroom "pets" are ignored and deprived of both human contact and appropriate companions of their own species. Students who do not understand the responsibility and time that animal companions require may neglect to fill water bottles, provide food, or clean cages.

What You Can Do
If you have made the compassionate decision never to have "pets" in your classroom, we urge you to sign our petition below and show your support for this campaign. If your school is keeping animals—either as "pets" or as teaching "tools"—voice your disagreement to the teacher, the administrator, and if necessary, the school board. Ask that they remove the animal from the classroom and forbid the use of animals in classrooms in the future. Please keep us updated on any progress you make with your principal or school board about this issue—and be aware that they are welcome to sign our petition on behalf of the entire school or district.

Pledge to Ban Class 'Pets'

Full Petition Text: 

I understand that animals used in the classroom as class 'pets' are kept in captivity for their entire lives and denied everything that is natural and important to them. I further understand that at the end of the school year, these animals are oftentimes neglected or discarded.

By signing my name, I pledge never to keep live animals in my classroom.

Signed,
[Your Name]

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