Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Be The Change For Animals: The Next Generation

As animal lovers, we want our children and their children to love animals too. We teach them to care responsibly for pets, to be good stewards of wildlife habitat, and to develop empathy for living things that depend on and are vulnerable to human actions.

I'm sure that within our own small family circle most of us devote considerable time and effort to passing down our own respect for the animals that share this planet with us. They enrich our lives; we want rich lives for our next generations.

My grandchildren enjoying some outside play time at the park.

Today I'm concerned that within wider society we are failing at these goals. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Silent streets. Last week, Spring Break, featured beautiful balmy weather. On a two mile walk through the neighborhood with Toby, I didn't see a single person under the age of 50 outdoors. The children weren't playing in backyards. They weren't riding bikes. They certainly were not birdwatching or watching ants or playing with Daddy-long-legs as I did as a little girl. They weren't pretending to be horses, or making chains with dandelions or picking flowers for their mothers. They weren't visible at all outside.
I ask you: if kids don't play outside, how do they learn to appreciate the plant and animal life beyond their front door?
  • Fear of the gentlest creatures imaginable. While teaching a zoo program in an underprivileged school I was astonished to see children burst into tears when a domestic rabbit was removed from its carrier. Some literally ran for the safety of a teacher's lap. And it was all downhill from there. Later a veteran zoo educator explained to me that for children living in poverty, the only animals they may be familiar with are rats, mice, and other vermin. They transfer the fear and loathing they've learned to feel for these animals to all creatures.
According to the National Center For Children In Poverty, 22% of children in the United States live below the poverty line. Think of this: if you struggle to feed your children, how will you cover food and vet bills for a companion animal?

  • Shrimp have heads?? That's a question I was asked by a high school student several years ago while teaching Marine Biology. If you had only seen shrimp fried on a plate, would you know they had heads? Our children have a frightening level of ignorance about where their food comes from. Most have never been to a farm, been fishing or hunting, or otherwise understand that what is on the table was once alive.
Who will advocate for humane treatment of livestock and protection of the oceans if our children know nothing about the ethical, environmental, and economic impacts of factory farming, commercial fishing, and monoculture?

So what to do?

Be mindful of social justice. When almost a quarter of American children are being raised in poverty, every aspect of their development is harmed. 

Talk to youngsters you meet about your pet. Your dogs or cats give you a wonderful opportunity to introduce kids to the joys of spending time in the company of animals.

Encourage children to spend time outdoors. As neighbors, teachers, mentors, and friends, we adults have a responsibility to share our own love of nature with the next generation.

Think about your own situation, and consider what you could do to help your community foster love of animals. One quick example: the amazing impact therapy animals have at schools on children of all ages. 

Without doubt, you can come up with many more.  Join me in changing the futures of both children and animals for years to come in whatever large and small ways you can.

This post is joining "Blog The Change For Animals, a quarterly blog hop on behalf of animals everywhere.


  1. Excellent post! You are so right...we were just talking here the other day about how children and teens today never "look up" from their cell phones or video games or TV...we were out playing all day! I was just watching a night crawler the other night while out with my Huskies thinking how my sister and brother used to love to go digging for them at night with my Dad to use for fishing. We used to catch fireflies and then set them free. Butterflies were magical. We so need to teach our children and grandchildren these very same values that do indeed help shape them into caring adults for both the human and the animal world. Thank you for a truly wonderful post - and your grandchildren are adorable! :-)

  2. So sad that children nowadays don't have the simple pleasures of playing outside with each other and being animal aware. Have a tremendous Thursday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. I feel Sorry for today's children. As a child I spent HOURS and HOURS with a magnifying glass crawling around the Woods and yard looking at insects and plants and Rocks... I watched Milkweed Caterpillars Eat.. and form their chrysalis and then Emerge as beautiful Monarch Butterflies...
    Children today have no Idea about the world they live in... and no understanding or APPRECIATION for the miracles that surround them. SAD

  4. I couldn't agree more. I work with high school students with intellectual disabilities most significantly below the poverty line. Many of them are afraid of animals particularly dogs. I used to do a therapy dog program but sadly the admins ended it
    Retro rover

  5. I have been shocked to discover that kids live in some of the houses near me. We have this paradise of mountains and trails, and the kids never come outside.

    I feel that I can have the biggest impact on my extended family. My nephews can recognize tracks and scat, and they mostly seem to love being outdoors.

    I wish that Shyla were a dog who could go to schools... but, alas, her temperament isn't right for it...

    Great post!

  6. Poverty is a terrible problem. It is hard to be worrying about enriching your children's lives when you aren't sure you can keep them fed and sheltered. Thankfully there are some programs that help people with pet vaccinations and free spay and neuter operations, but I don't think they help with pet food.

    I taught second grade for a short time and was so happy to have classroom pets to share with the kids. Our district provided them free of charge and it was really wonderful.

    This has me thinking of what I can do to help local children who are living in poverty. Thanks for the inspiration, I'll let you know if I come up with something!

  7. It is sad that a lot of children don't go out to"play" because of the media hype surrounding the dangers of them being outside, also technology is a huge factor in keeping them inside.
    A great post.

  8. Wow, those are some great points! I have felt for a long time that it is sad that kids these days stay indoors so much, partly because their addiction to electronics and partly because their parents' fear of them being outside of the house alone without direct supervision. But I have never thought of how children whose only exposure to animals are scary ones... in fact for kids in certain neighborhoods, they may see a lot of dogs that are trained to fight or to attack people, and they may assume that all dogs are out to kill. It is too bad that classrooms aren't often allowed to have pets anymore... helping to take care of the class bunny or guinea pig on a daily basis might help kids learn to love and care for animals!


We love to know what you have to meow, bow-wow, growl, or just plain howl. Leave a comment for us!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...