Model Laws

Humane Education and Humane Treatment of Animals in the Classroom


Read Commentary


Sec. 1. Purpose

Instruction in the humane treatment of animals is an important part of a student's education. Students frequently encounter animals in their daily lives. A curriculum that incorporates humane interactions between animals and humans and encourages kindness to animals will teach students to have empathy and compassion for all living beings.


Many teachers keep pets in their classroom in order to teach students about responsible handling of animals and animal behavior. While companion animals can provide children with an invaluable bond and companionship, animals in the classroom rarely receive adequate care or enrichment and are often subject to noisy classroom environments that cause stress and anxiety. There are plenty of other ways to provide children with an appreciation of and exposure to companion and wild animals without subjecting a "classroom pet" to inadequate living conditions.


Sec. 2. Definitions

(a) Animal: any nonhuman mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian or fish

(b) Animal cruelty: causing injury or harm to an animal, intentionally or through neglect

(c) Aggravated animal cruelty: intentional killing or causing serious physical harm to an animal

(d) Student: any public or nonpublic school pupil enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12

(e) School: a public or nonpublic facility for students in kindergarten through grade 12


Sec. 3. Instruction in Humane Treatment of Animals

Every school within the state shall provide students with instruction, study and discussion of humane treatment and protection of companion, domestic and wild animals.

Lessons in humane education may include:

(a) A visit to a local animal shelter for lessons on pet adoption, humane handling and compassionate care of companion animals;


(b) Noninvasive study of animals in their natural habitats including observation of insects on plants, birds in trees and aquatic animals in their natural environment;


(c) Watching videos about different ecosystems including oceans, deserts and rainforests and the ways animals in those systems interact with each other; and


(d) Visits from wildlife rehabilitation groups, zoo programs, and other similar professional organizations that have an educational component to their mission.


Sec. 4. Study and Care of Live Animals in the Classroom

Animals rarely thrive in classroom settings where they may not receive adequate care or enrichment and are subject to noisy classroom settings.


Any classroom within a school in the state which keeps a live animal for class study or interaction shall ensure that each animal is afforded the following: 1) appropriate living quarters; 2) sufficient space for the normal behavior and postural requirements of the species; 3) proper ventilation, lighting, and temperature control; 4) adequate food and clean drinking water; and 5) quarters which shall be cleaned on a regular basis and located in an area where undue stress and disturbance are minimized.


Sec. 5. Live Animal Feedings in the Classroom


(a) No person shall feed a live animal to another live animal in the presence of students on school premises. This subsection shall apply to any feeding that is associated with or sponsored by the school system.


(b) Any person who violates this section shall be guilty of aggravated animal cruelty.


Additional Commentary

Humane education provides an important opportunity to inform and inspire students on the importance of the natural world and the responsibilities people have toward animals, as well as to other human beings. Studies in behavioral psychology have shown that there is a strong link between cruelty to animals and future violence toward humans. Many violent offenders, including serial killers, regularly harmed animals when they were children and then elevated their actions to violent behavior towards humans later in life. Teaching empathy and compassion for animals at an early age not only helps animals, but also lessens the likelihood that children will be cruel to other children.


Closely tied to humane education, schools should also prohibit activities within the classroom which encourage cruel behavior towards animals. State statutes and school policies across the country already explicitly ban the practice of live-animal experimentation (vivisection) in the classroom because the practice of cutting into a live animal is inhumane and because it is unnecessary in a classroom setting to educate students.


There is a strong parallel between practicing vivisection and feeding live animals to classroom pets in front of students, because both involve an act that encourages students to engage in behavior that causes extreme pain and suffering to other living beings. Feeding live animals to other animals in a classroom creates an environment that implies that animal cruelty is justifiable, and that it is acceptable to the prolong pain and suffering of one animal to benefit another one. When predator animals do this in the wild, they are acting according to their own natures. When a teacher is the one providing prey to a classroom animal, it implies that it is acceptable for humans to participate in an act of cruelty towards the animal victim. This does not constitute humane education.


In addition, some state statues have further established that performing acts of animal cruelty in the presence of a child is punishable as a felony. Children are highly impressionable and emulate the actions of the adults with whom they have a relationship. Performing live feeding demonstrations in front of students including with animals such as dogs, cats, guinea pigs, rats and mice, who are frequently kept as companion animals in American households, rises to the level of animal cruelty when conducted in front of students for educational purposes.



NAVS: Laws that Recognize the Importance of Humane Education


Columbus Public Health: Safely Caring for Animals in the Classroom:


National District Attorneys Association: Criminal Penalties for Exposing Children to Animal Abuse


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