The American Humane Association has been celebrating “Be Kind to Animals Week” since 1915. The AHA was founded in 1877 to protect animals and children from abuse and neglect. Today, they work with child and animal protection agencies around the country to develop policies, legislation, and training programs to carry out their original mission. In this annual tradition of Be Kind to Animals Week, shelters across the nation commemorate the role animals play in our lives, promote ways to continue to treat them humanely, and encourage others, especially children, to do the same. In honor of this celebration, and to ensure the message of the American Humane Association is carried on by future generations, show your children how to be kind and respectful towards all animals.
Show you care in the home.
If you have a companion animal at home, be sure you give your pet lots of love and attention. Food, water, and shelter are the necessities, but your pet needs more than that. It’s pertinent that your child learns to give food and water to your pet, but also be sure to schedule play times so you can teach appropriate ways for your children to play with animals. If you have a rabbit, for example, make sure your child knows to never to pull on the ears or tail and show the proper way to hold your bunny. If you have a guinea pig, you can sit on the floor with your legs stretched out and your feet touching your child’s; let the guinea pig run around between you both. Your child can also help walk the dog (with your assistance) and he or she can take part in playing with feather pole toys with the cat.
If you don’t have a pet, think about adopting. Close to four million animals are euthanized every year in our nation’s shelters. Teach your children you care by choosing to adopt an animal from a shelter instead of buying from a pet store or breeder.
Teach your child that all animals are important.
If you see a spider in your home, the first instinct may be to kill it. But if the spider isn’t poisonous, is this really necessary? Show your child you care by scooping the spider up in a cup and taking it outside. You can do the same with all insects you find in your home. Even if you find mice droppings in your house, try to humanely trap the mouse first with a live trap. Once the mouse is caught, you can take it outside and be sure to seal all entryways so the mouse doesn’t get back into the house.
Should you teach your child to love or be fearful of bats? Contrary to myth, bats won’t get tangled in your hair and chances of them being rabid are miniscule. Bats consume more than 1,000 mosquitoes in an evening, so many people build bat houses to encourage them to settle in their yards. If one enters your home, turn off all the lights and open doors and windows. Bats are very sensitive to air currents, so the bat should leave on its own. If the bat still doesn’t leave, you can try to catch the animal in a net or call animal control. Just remember that killing the bat isn’t necessary and your child will learn to be compassionate if you handle the situation humanely.
Show you care outside the home.
Santa Barbara residents love their gardens! But if it comes at the expense of rabbits, gophers, or other animals, are we teaching our children that flowers are more important than an animal life? There are many ways to humanely deter animals from your garden. Experts say the best way is to erect a chicken wire fence at least 36” above the ground and 12” below the ground. Bend the underground portion away from the garden in an “L” shape. This will prevent animals from burrowing under the fence. Draping nylon netting across the plants also helps. You can also place mesh cages over young plants and sink bottles into the ground allowing the wind to blow across them creating a noise deterrent. Motion-activated noisemakers available from garden centers, owl decoys, and pinwheels can also be effective deterrents.
Don’t use pesticides or fertilizers on your lawn. Not only are these chemicals poisonous to animals, they’re toxic to humans as well. Go organic if you want to control weeds and fertilize your plants. There are many all-natural products on the market that won’t cause damage to animals or humans. Your child will learn at an early age that there are natural, nontoxic ways to control pests in the yard.
If your child is celebrating his or her birthday, what better way to celebrate than a picnic in the park. But are those birthday balloons really necessary? If just one balloon breaks free, it can drift into our oceans and end up in the stomach of sea life. You can ask guests to bring a children’s book instead of a balloon as a gift for your child.
At the grocery store do you ask for paper or plastic? If you’re really environmentally conscious, you probably bring your own bag. If not, show your child you care about wildlife by opting for paper bags over plastic. Paper is best because birds, turtles and dolphins often get tangled in and swallow plastic grocery bags that end up in waterways.
Finally, hiking is a great way to get children to connect with nature and animals. However, tadpoles, insects, and other tiny creatures should be left in their natural environment. Don’t disrupt and destroy their niche in the ecosystem by bringing them home as pets. Wild animals should remain in the wild.
Other ways to show you care.
Teach your children to speak out for animals. Children can learn at a young age that they can impact how the animals are treated in their community. Become informed about policies and legislation that affect animals. You can register to receive Action Alerts from American Humane and you’ll be able to teach your children about animal advocacy. For more information, visit americanhumane.org.
Make your Mondays meat-free. Even master chef Mario Batali has signed on to make Mondays meat free. Even as a big meat lover, Mario is embracing Meatless Monday in all of his 14 restaurants across the county. And this is a great way to teach your kids that we should care about animals such as cows, pigs, and chickens in addition to our furry companion animals.
By teaching your children at a young age to love and respect all animals, you will be instilling in them a compassionate way of life. “Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man himself will not find peace” —Albert Schweitzer.
Pet of the Week