I once saw a documentation on TV about the high school shootings. It was mentioned that almost all teenage shooters had histories of animal abuse and straight out cruelty.
I am no psychologist, but I belief the greatest influence on a child's outlook on animals lies between the family and the environment. Children seem to be like little video cameras. They see everything and when you hit the right button, you receive 'play-back'!
With other words: They see how the people around them treat animals!
Education starts early on and at home. We as parents shape the little human being growing up with us. We, through our own behavior as examples, will form the future pet-lover or possible dog-fighter! We create the values, honor codes, standards, believes... that our children belief in! If we kick or smack our dog, we shouldn't be surprised if they do!
I try to teach my kids that a little respect goes a long way. If you treat the custodial worker with kindness and respect, using Sir and Ma'am, and all it brings you is a roll of toilet paper in the right moment... Was it worth it?
Children are our future! What we shape in them, will shape our future!
Where to start!
But where do we start when some parents don't seem to teach their children respect for animals?
I knew a lady who had never had any children other than her dogs and cats. Somehow she was horrible with children directly; had no idea what to do with them. But you put her in a classroom and told her to talk about animals; and you had a child-development genius!
I never knew that somebody who can speak formally in front of high-end sponsors can wind herself down to bring across to children issues such as overpopulation and spay/neuter! But she did with a skill that left us who knew her speechless.
Where to start? In Kindergarten or even at Daycare Centers! If you can create material for their level, teach them! Give those little video cameras something to record that will benefit our future! And it won't be just the animals that benefit!
Ever heard about the reading programs that involve animals? A dog will never laugh when a child has issues reading! So many libraries and schools invite dogs to support reading programs! Combine that with some animal education and you have a major outcome! Kids learn to read and animals may have a better chance on life!
Exposure is a great thing! We tend to fear what we don't know or understand. So why not expose some of them to the objects they fear? I know Pitbulls that work as Therapy Dogs and have never harmed a fly! But any Mutt will do! A Mutt can teach them that bloodlines are not important, but responsible care for those they should love is! Take a shelter dog to school and you show them that not ever shelter dog is a lost cause. Clean up those miss-information about the 'damaged goods' and show them the things that rescued animals can do!
What do we want them to know?
What are we going to talk about....?
We are euthanizing 6-9 million animals a year because we can't find enough homes! But why are people still breeding the hell out of their animals? Why do we have backyard breeders offering sick puppies on classified websites and in newspapers and horribly cruel puppy mills sell their 'stock' in pet-shops? I firmly believe the lack of Government implemented, funded, supported and enforced programs is part of it; but education is another!
It is closely related to the overpopulation issue, but we need to explain what it is and what it does! And why more people should spay/neuter.
How many children grow up with dogs chained on 3 foot chains in their backyard; no dog house, food or water in sight!? If we explain children what care the animals in their homes need and what needs to be done to keep them comfortable, it may help influence their parents; or at least influence those possible future pet owners.
This may be the most important portion of it! Why are we asking them to not breed, not let their dog sit in the rain, not let their animals starve to death or die of dehydration? Because it is a life and when you get an animal, you are responsible for its care!
Give children an idea of what they can do with their dog, cat or else! Especially dogs can be a source of great fun. There are so many sports for dogs and their owners! The fun is almost unlimited! Just the simple idea of kids getting together to walk their dogs can allow some children to make friends they didn't have before.
The sad side:
Don't let this become a horrible memory, but they do need to understand what can and will happen if people don't act responsible. They need to understand that dog-fighting is no sport or fun and that people that are cruel to or neglect their animals can and should be brought to justice! While some States are still lacking in the 'justice' department when it concerns animals, there are fines and even jail-time what a abuser or neglecter can face!
Think about what you want them to know and understand and how to bring it across. Ask your children! They will know best and can have some awesome ideas!
You have to be creative and make it fit the level your audience is on!
Children are very straightforward with their critic; a beautiful thing! You will hear the truth, the truth, and nothing but the truth! And yes, they can catch mistakes you may make!
Small children will learn the easiest with hands-on games and coloring projects. It will allow them to think and understand at their level. Especially when they can do math already.
The math for euthanasia is very simple. Most statistics state that 2 of 10 dogs will find homes and 2 of 12 cats. Find a painless but clear way to explain that!
Older children do well with slide-shows, videos and even research projects. MS Powerpoint and the Internet are a bottomless pit for information; and youtube.com has a ton of related videos; painfully direct or easier to swallow. Just make sure to respect copyrights!
There is no real limit on how to present such information to adults. It has to be tasteful and professional; and all the information has to be correct! You are only as effective as the information you provide is correct! Caught once with a lie, you mind as well stop talking! While children are more honest with their critique, adults are those that can help and harm 'now'!
Chose your material wisely; like you are writing an essay that will save your whole entire college degree! Present it professionally! Walk away with a reputation that may spread the word about the issue you are trying to present! Don't let one negative action discourage you! Not everybody will ever agree with you. But you are one of the voices that will speak up and do something about it!
Why all that work?
There is a saying that the pen is mightier as the sword!
There are those that will demonstrate for their believes; or go even much further. For me it is important to make a point, but do it professionally and in a way that will convince more than one type of person. Education may not have stopped wars, but it may have or still do prevent some. We can either continue on our path to treat animals the same way we treat toys; as disposables. Or we can start making a better future for all of us!
I dream about the day when I become 'unemployed'! The day I will not spend hours on the computer posting animals and sending emails out to communicate needs and options between rescuers, transporters, shelters and possible adopters! Every day a shelter becomes a low-kill or no-kill shelter is a good day to me. But at this time the statistics still speak against us!
When is the last time you looked at your own local shelter? Do you know if they euthanize with gas, heart-stick or lethal injection? Do you know what their adoption rate is and how many animals are killed? Do you know if your County has any kind of spay/neuter program going?
I know we can't fix everything by ourselves, but that's were teamwork is for! And one of the most important sayings in animal rescues puts it in simple words:
"If not you, who? If not now, when?"