As inflation pressures costs for pet owners and many return to in-person work, many Canadians are giving up their “pandemic pets,” which were obtained during the COVID-19 pandemic, to animal shelters. Across Canada, these shelters are now overwhelmed with an increasing number of abandoned animals.
Melissa Logan, director of education at the Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), says there may be a way to alleviate pet abandonment through what we calls a “complete human education”.
Logan says this area of education encourages people to think about the impact of their choices and actions on animals and the world around them.
“We focus on how animals feel,” Logan told Global News. “We encourage students to learn about the specific needs of their pets and learn how to meet those needs.”
“Instead of abandoning animals, we need to be curious about them,” she said.
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Logan says she recognizes that many Canadians struggle financially.
“For those people, we really encourage them to seek support in their family or community,” Logan said, adding that pet food banks are one of many resources.
While financial support can be helpful as a short-term solution, education is a crucial way to help Canadians understand responsibility to animals, Logan said.
She adds that pet abandonment related to lifestyle and behavioral issues could be reduced through educational programs that build on empathy, respect and knowledge of animals.
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What is human education?
The Institute of Humane Education studies and teaches an approach that “makes connections between human rights, animal welfare and environmental sustainability”.
Sandra Scott, a professor in the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy at the University of British Columbia, says she prefers to use the term “ecological justice” rather than “human education,” because the former term is earth-centered.
According to Scott, respect for animals is essential.
“Because if you don’t have respect, you’re going to encroach on their space,” she said.
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Scott says it’s important for people to do their research before adopting and buying a pet.
“That’s where education comes in. If we could incorporate research skills (about getting a pet) into our teaching curriculum, that would be fantastic,” Scott said.
Scott says people need to think about what breed of dog or cat is right for them, have an idea of how much they’ll be eating and the costs associated with the animal.
Barbara Cartwright, CEO of Humane Canada, says the rise in pet abandonment may have been triggered by the pandemic, during which many Canadians bought pets from breeders with poor track records. in health care.
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“It’s a real concern,” Cartwright told Global News previously.
News of a rise in pet abandonments comes after many Canadians rushed to adopt or buy pets when the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.
According to a June 2021 poll commissioned by Purina, approximately 3.7 million Canadians have recently adopted, purchased or fostered a cat or dog during the pandemic.
What does human education look like?
Scott says parents should be role models for children and teach them respect and responsibility whenever they interact with a non-human.
Parents should allow children to explore their backyards, take them to parks or read them books about animals, Scott said.
“We can start when kids are still in kindergartens, early childhood is when they still have that sense of wonder,” Scott said. “We can start building their empathy just by getting them to connect with creatures in their own backyard.
“If we see a dog, we don’t run and start petting it, we’re showing our kids that, you know, we have to give that dog some space and then have a conversation with the owner of the dog. animal.”
Scott says it’s easy for many to adopt or buy a puppy for their home, but the responsibility of owning a pet is another challenge.
“I really respect parents who tell their kids, ‘No, you can’t have a dog until you can show me you can have a dog,'” Scott said.
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Licensed psychologist Kimberly Kreklewetz says humane education should be part of everyday discussions in homes.
“The ultimate responsibility rests with the parents,” said Kreklewetz, who is also a faculty member in the psychology department at UBC Okanagan.
“As much as your kids promise to take care of the dog…recourse should be on the parents,” she said. “When you apply for a rescue for a dog, they always ask and make sure every member of the family is on board and that this adoption will work for everyone.”
Kreklewetz says that for her family, responsible pet ownership means that their pets are considered part of the family.
“They’ve been with us their whole lives pretty much no matter what,” she said. “We want to teach our children that we don’t abandon our pets when the going gets tough and that we always give them the best possible care.”
Bringing humane education into classrooms
Margaret Galan, a secondary school English teacher in Richmond, British Columbia, says she started bringing her dog into her class casually 25 years ago.
“I believe that every child should have the opportunity, obviously if the circumstances allow it, to experience the love and compassion of an animal and to form a real bond with it,” said Galan, who is also director of the Animal Rehabilitation and Care Rescue Society.
Galan says that by incorporating humane education into classrooms, she believes students can learn about caring for a pet and the importance of adoption. This, in turn, can prevent more and more animals from being abandoned in the future.
Galan adds that having an animal in the classroom can sometimes be therapeutic for students.
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“The pressure of the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressure to succeed makes students really vulnerable,” Galan said. “Having a pet in a classroom and showing them how relaxed and empathetic an animal can be can give them a huge opportunity to relax and at the same time (teach them) to take responsibility.”
Logan notes that the Alberta SPCA offers humane education resources for teachers that are aligned to a curriculum, but all educators should be aware of all responsibilities associated with introducing pets to the classroom. school.
Ultimately, parents, caregivers and educators need to consider “what kind of message are they sending to students” – whether animals are treated as “a fun toy or a fun experience” – is entirely up to the adults involved, Logan said.
“I know students might get pleasure from these animals, or there might be some learning, but the first and most important (thing to consider) is the welfare of the animal,” Logan said. .
“If they can provide this exemplary care, children can learn to care for animals from this classroom pet.”
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