Monday, November 30, 2015

Choice equals Respect and Safety

I wrote the following post originally for a HAWS Tattle Tales article.  I would argue that teaching children animal safety should absolutely include this concept. Allowing pets to make choices is a topic I'd like to explore in the future, since I believe that this is the foundation for respect and fundamental to humane education. 

A study with nursing home residents showed that those individuals who were encouraged to make personal choices for themselves were happier and healthier than residents who had all decisions made by staff.  (Langer & Rodin, 1976). 

Lack of control in the workplace is considered to be a huge stressor for an employee.  A study showed that employees in high stress jobs with a lack of control were more stressed than employees in high stress jobs and more control.  (Karasek, 1979) 

Allowing an individual at least some autonomy gives them control over their lives, helps develop confidence, reduces stress, promotes a happy life, and can be an important part of developing a relationship. 

Everything I’ve written so far is in reference to human beings, but is equally applicable to animals.  Indeed zoos make every opportunity to allow their animals to have as many choices as possible.  Just because an animal is on display doesn’t mean you’ll get to see him if he’s decided he wants to hide from you.  A large part of enrichment for zoo animals incorporates the opportunity to make choices and have some control over their environment.      

I would argue that we also need to provide our pets with choices.  So much of our pets lives are dictated by us; we tell them where to eliminate, where they should sleep, control when they eat, dictate what they can and cannot play with, and decide when we are going to provide them with exercise.  While we can’t give our pets full autonomy, we can try and give them the ability to make choices as often as possible.   

Humane Education is all about respecting and displaying compassion for all living things.  What better way to instill these concepts than to teach children about allowing animals to have choices.   Just because you want to pet the kitty doesn’t mean that the kitty wants you to pet her.  Allowing a cat to leave the room and hide is a great way to show respect and acknowledge her rights as an individual to decline an interaction that makes only one of the two of you happy.  

Giving our pets choices about whether they want to be touched or approached by us or others not only gives them autonomy and respect, but is also a safety issue.  Animals that are stressed, anxious or frightened are more likely to feel the need to defend themselves; we know that most bites are caused by animals who are frightened.  

Our jobs as pet owners are not only to care for them, but to protect them and help them thrive in our world.   And what better way is there than finding ways to give our pets some choices about their lives. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

Amazing kids!

At the beginning of the school year I received an email from Randall STEM Academy saying,

"Our 2nd/3rd graders are doing a unit on Community. Their final project will be for them to work in small groups and carry out a service project to help the Waukesha community and be good citizens. 

We are looking for representatives from Waukesha area service groups to come in and explain what the group does to help the community and how kids can be involved (either now or in the future)." 

Of course I went and talked to the kids and had a really fun time talking about HAWS and what we do here.

A few weeks ago I received another email from the teacher saying they were holding a service expo and that the students would like to show the representatives from the non-profits what they had done.  I attended that expo on Wednesday.

As I walked into the media center I saw that groups of kids were surrounding tables that were labeled with the name of the non-profit that the group had chosen to help.  I walked past several tables looking in the sign that said HAWS, and started to wonder if maybe none of the groups had chosen us for their project.

As I came around one of the tables I looked up at a doorway leading into another room and saw tabled the the door frame "HAWS".  We didn't just get a table, we had a whole room because about 8 groups of kids had chosen us!   I was immediately touched and overwhelmed by the magnitude of the desire that so many 2nd and 3rd graders had to want to help the animals of Waukesha County.

I approached one of the groups and introduced myself and asked to see their project.  They were thrilled to see me, excited to show me the video they had created to promote their project, and proudly presented me with a plastic baggie, telling me that it held $43.00.

As I spoke to the next group I started getting tugs on my arms with children from other parts of the room asking me to come see their project.  I assured all the students that I was planning on visiting every table.  Every group of kids was proud of the video or slide show they'd created, and even more proud of the results, since every group had collected items from HAWS wishlist.

I hear sometimes that kids today are being raised to be selfish and materialistic.  I think the Randall STEM 2nd and 3rd graders prove that just isn't true. 

Below is a video I created for the students.  Our staff and volunteers truly appreciate their hard work!