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Cats, Dogs and Us

Published: 05/15/2014 by Corrie Rabbe

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 The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s (IFAW) Cats, Dogs, and Us free Animal Action education pack offers a number of lessons to help students learn about the relationship between cats, dogs, and humans around the world and the impact of that relationship on each species. In the “Animal Investigator” lesson, children learn about the basic needs of companion animals such as dogs and cats.  


The lesson asks children to imagine a scenario where a woman has called the authorities to report an unattended dog living in her neighbourhood. The dog, named Bud, lives in a backyard next door. Bud’s owner says he always has water and that she feeds him twice a day. Bud is not allowed inside her house but he has his own doghouse. An Animal Investigator will go to see Bud and consider: What does Bud’s living situation look like? What does the area around Bud look like? What does Bud’s shelter look like? And what does his food bowl look like? 


In other lessons available in IFAW’s Cats, Dogs, and Us, children learn animal-related vocabulary, look at how cats have adapted over time, imitate a dog’s body language to demonstrate non-verbal communication, consider cats’ and dogs’ basic needs, and, for older students, examine different perspectives regarding a fictitious city’s response to its population of free-roaming dogs. 


Humane Education 
At its core, humane education is about how we treat living beings. For centuries, spiritual leaders and philosophers have articulated that developing kindness and compassion for animals leads children to develop love, kindness and compassion for human beings. 


From an early age children have a natural fascination towards animals. Winnie the Pooh, The Cat in the Hat and Franklin the Turtle are just a few. Animal-related stories and lessons capture students’ attention and are impactful for both academic and character education. 


Animal-related education helps increase a childs’ ability to understand another’s perspective and feelings and, therefore, to respond appropriately. Humane education builds empathy and can help to develop a more caring society with values directed at “community” rather than the individual. 


By fostering empathy and kindness, humane education programs reduce the likelihood of aggressive behavior, such as bullying. The link between cruelty to animals and interpersonal violence has been well established. Young people who witness or engage in cruelty towards animals are more likely to hurt other living beings. Teaching children at an early age that hurting animals intentionally or through neglect is wrong can help have a significant impact on their human interpersonal relationships. 

IFAW Humane Education Methods
There are three main methods used in humane education programs: lessons, media, and action.


Lessons help develop academic skills in a specific subject area, teach humane concepts, and reinforce favourable character traits.


The lesson’s in IFAW education packs such as Cats, Dogs and Us not only meet provincial curriculum expectations. They also teach positive attributes. While children benefit from interaction with dogs, cats, rabbits, or small animals, humane education is most impactful when delivered regularly throughout the year and integrated with academic lessons. IFAW offers a wide variety of free animal themed education packs including tigers, elephants, and seals.


Use of media including books, magazines, and videos featuring animals teaches important character values such as fairness, cooperation, and honesty. Stories about or from the perspective of an animal have long been used to develop and strengthen traditional literary skills and teach positive values. Comprehension and analysis of a story can be improved by asking children questions or to discuss what they have read, viewed, or heard.


In lesson one of IFAW’s “Cats, Dogs, and Us” (for ages 8-14) children watch an 18 minute video. Educators then ask students to strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with a variety of statements and discuss their reasons.  This helps students demonstrate an understanding of multiple perspectives and analyze connections between cats, dogs, and humans.


Engaging young people in activities, such as IFAW’s Family Pledge, encourages children to actively respect and protect cats and dogs in their homes, neighborhoods, and communities. Taking action reinforces humane values and students can see the impact their actions have. Local humane societies and SPCA’s often have activities that children can get involved with including summer camps. A simple way to get children involved is for children to collect needed items for a local animal shelter.


By providing young people around the world with the knowledge and tools they need to take positive action on behalf of animals and the environment they are building the attitudes and behaviours needed by the next generation of responsible decision makers.


Animals and Us 

www.ifaw.org/canada/our-work/ education/cats-dogs-and-us 

http://everylivingthing.ca/about/ humane-education/ 

http://bekindexhibit.org/about/ humane-education-and-childrenin-britain/ 


http://science.howstuffworks. com/zoology/mammals/dog2.htm 

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/ evolution/library/01/5/l_015_02. html 


http://www.theatlantic.com/ technology/archive/2013/12/howhumans-created-cats/282391/ 

http://www.catoddities.com/ The%20Evolution%20of%20 House%20Cats.pdf