Teach your children well

Gloria J. Towle, Special to The County
3 years ago

It is so important for young children to learn about being kind, having empathy and showing compassion for our four-legged friends.  It starts at home and it should start at a very early age.  Loving and carry for pets is a commitment for the life of the pet, not for a few weeks or months until the novelty of a new pet wears off. 

Pets can live long, happy lives, sometimes 15 to 20 years, so it’s important to really consider carefully adding a pet to your family.

Just recently a sweet young lady named Rylan worked very hard at cat sitting and donated all of her earnings of $100 to the shelter animals.  This is such an amazing act of kindness and sharing.  Rylan’s generosity truly fills our hearts.

Sheryl Dickstein, director of humane education for the American Society for the Protection and Care of Animals, offered some tips on teaching children how to care for pets. 

A child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development can all be encouraged by interaction with the family pet. Walking a dog or running in the yard and throwing a ball are great ways to exercise the dog, as well as for children to get away from sedentary indoor activities and move around. Small motor skills can be encouraged by allowing children to scoop food and pour water into dishes, and by helping to groom pets. Depending on the child’s age, parental supervision is recommended for both the child’s and the pet’s safety, Dickstein said.

The responsibility a child has for their pet needs be age-appropriate, she explained. At the age of 3, a child can help to fill food bowls. By 5, they can begin to take on some basic grooming tasks as well as to help clean the pet’s living area. As children reach the mid-elementary school years, they can begin walking a dog independently, and as the teen years approach, the child will most likely be able to take on the bulk of the responsibility for a house pet. Keeping pet-oriented tasks age-appropriate is not only necessary for the safety of the pet, but for the child as well — both physically and emotionally.

Pets can facilitate various aspects of emotional development such as self-esteem and a sense of responsibility. As kids age and take on more of the care for the pet, it helps to build self-confidence.  It’s important to point out however, that it is a misunderstood fact that pets teach children responsibility. Parents teach responsibility, pets just make a good vehicle for learning, Dickstein said.

Bringing a pet into the family is not a decision that should be made lightly. It first must be a commitment by the parents, not the child, as they will ultimately be responsible for the pet’s welfare. Once that commitment has been made, however, and an appropriate pet has been found for the family, the joys and benefits of the pet relationship will last for many years to come.  

Stop by and visit the Central Aroostook Humane Society at 24 Cross Street, Presque Isle..  You can also check us out on Facebook.  We encourage all pet owners to be responsible by having their pets spayed or neutered.

Gloria J. Towle is the secretary and a member of the board for the Central Aroostook Humane Society.