RSPCA launches new programme for parents and children

The RSPCA has launched a new education programme for parents to teach their children about animal welfare at home.

The new programme which has launched this month (April) focusses on the welfare of dogs, cats and rabbits and provides parents with information and activities they can do with their children.

During the pandemic, there has been a huge surge in pet ownership and these activities can help prepare those families who are thinking about getting a pet, or help those who have recently bought or adopted a pet, to learn more about their animal’s needs and behaviour.

David Allen, Head of Education and Prevention at the RSPCA, said: “We are so pleased to have launched Compassionate Family which provides parents with the resources they need to learn about animal welfare with their children at home. We already run Compassionate Class which provides teaching plans and resources for schools to use with Key Stage 2 pupils but we wanted something that was specifically for families.

“With the huge surge in pet ownership over the last 12 months, many children may be getting a pet for the very first time so we saw this as an ideal opportunity for children to learn about their pets’ needs and behaviour, such as how to understand and read their body language, and inspire children to do something good for animals.”

The programme begins by introducing the concept of compassion and outlining the animal’s needs, there are then a range of discovery activities focusing on dogs, cats and rabbits for parents and children to complete together, and the final section is advocacy which brings together their learning and encourages the family to champion animal welfare in a creative and imaginative way. This could be carrying out a litter pick, creating a wildlife friendly garden, or keeping an eye out for higher welfare labels like RSPCA Assured when shopping.

The RSPCA has concerns that some people may be buying a pet on impulse rather than considering whether they have the time, money and resources to care for a pet for the rest of their lives. By planning and preparing to bring a pet home, this will mean that owners have done their research and are fully prepared for the commitment having a pet entails and it can also make a nice family project.

Dave added: “Whilst adults should always be ultimately responsible for pets, caring for them can involve the whole family. Children can help with things like cleaning small animal enclosures, preparing a pet’s food and enjoying going out for walks with the dog – all as part of regular supervised family activities. Helping to care for pets can encourage children to become more responsible and increase their empathy and compassion to others.”

It’s also important that children learn to read their pet’s body language so they can understand how they’re feeling and when they might need a time out. For example, from a dog’s point of view, children communicate differently to adults and dogs can find it hard to understand children and even harder to tell them when they want to be left alone which is why an awareness of their body language is so important.

The Compassionate Family activities include:

  • Making a kindness list for pets
  • Creating a weekly calendar for your pet’s needs
  • Spot the difference and colouring sheets for dogs, cats and bunnies
  • How to become an animal protector
  • Building a hedgehog shack for your garden

For more information or to get involved with Compassionate Family visit: https://education.rspca.org.uk/education/family