When should I be concerned about a child’s treatment of animals?

Most young children go through normal stages of curiosity and exploration of their natural environment as they learn about the 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 lack understanding of the consequences to the animal, the behaviors are not generally considered maladaptive. It is important that parents and caregivers understand that, although not maladaptive, the child’s behaviors still present a danger to animals and may require more supervision of the child with animals. In some cases, the safest course of action for the child and the animal may be to discontinue the child’s interactions with the animal.