One of the most dangerous things that can happen to a child is to kill or torture an animal and get away with it. -Anthropologist Margaret Mead
The Relevance of the Link for Education Professionals
Educators have invaluable knowledge and insight into the lives of the children they teach. It is important that educators are aware of the Link in order to help keep their students and their students’ families safe.
- Since the Link acknowledges that there is a connection between violence towards animals and violence towards others, it is beneficial for educators to constantly assess whether one of their students is in danger or not.
- Knowledge about the Link can help with this because it provides a systemic framework based on information and research conducted on animal abuse, child abuse, at-risk adults abuse, interpersonal violence, and criminality.
Violent criminals often have a history of animal abuse during childhood. Teachers and parents have been taught to be aware of children engaging in animal abuse because of the criminal risk factors associated. If caught early enough, a child with animal abuse tendencies may receive the right intervention and prevent future cruelty acts.
- Educators are also some of the first to notice or ask about child abuse in the home.
- By using the Link framework, educators may have another way to assess for child abuse.
- If a student talks about cruelty or neglect towards animals, the educator can partner with school counselors, social workers, and psychologists in order to evaluate if there is another layer to the talk about animal harm.
- Children may be more likely to inform others about abuse to their pets than abuse to themselves.
- It is up to the responsible adults in a child’s life to check for warning signs and take action to keep the child safe if necessary.
Early Warning Signs: What to Look For?
- Most young children go through normative stages of exploration of their natural environment as they learn about the natural world around them.
- Some very young children cause injury or death to insects and small animals because they lack knowledge and/or understanding regarding the physical consequences of their behaviors.
- In instances where children lack intent to cause harm and/or a lack of understanding of the consequences to the animal, the behaviors are not generally considered maladaptive.
Here are some signs that a child might be engaging in animal abuse rather than just exploration:
- The child knows that her/his actions are inflicting pain
- The child continues the action even though parents or adults have intervened
- The child continues to harm and torment animals past the age of exploration
Animal maltreatment by children should be taken very seriously and explored to determine the nature and extent of the behaviors. Early identification of animal maltreatment may have significant positive outcomes for intervention in developing patterns of callousness and, for some children, increasing patterns of violence towards animals and humans.
Humane Education as a Way to Combat Link Issues
Humane education is a way of teaching that gives students the knowledge, awareness, and information-gathering skills to live a more compassionate and connected life with regards to human rights, animal protection, and environmental preservation. The best part about humane education is that it can be incorporated into any school subject and there have been a good variety of activities and lesson plans already developed and most can be accessed for free online.
The goal of humane education is to instill values and critical-thinking skills into children so that they can grow up with a heightened awareness of how their actions affect others. Humane can be defined as “having the best qualities of human beings”, which include:
- Honesty and Trustworthiness
Please let us know about additional resources for humane education for children and youth.