Can Adopting a Shelter Animal Make a Difference in Your Child's Moral Development?

Posted by Pia

We animal lovers here at The Daily Wag are once again honored to be part of Petside's annual pet blog event (you can vote for The Daily Wag). This year the topic is a personal favorite- it's all about adoption!

Adopting a companion animal in need of rescue provides a fertile opportunity to teach important values to children. The decision to devote your resources and care to an animal in need sends a very clear message about who you are as a family and what you stand for.

Back
1 of 26
Adopting a companion animal in need, both saves a life and allows a child to feel important in the life of another.

1 Adopting a companion animal in need, both saves a life and allows a child to feel important in the life of another.

Children need to be given opportunities to make a positive impact on others and the world.

2 Children need to be given opportunities to make a positive impact on others and the world.

Caring for a companion animal is the first parenting experience for most children.

3 Caring for a companion animal is the first parenting experience for most children.

Children learn far more from what we do than what we say-  so modeling compassion and responsibility is the key to fostering such ethics in a child.

4 Children learn far more from what we do than what we say- so modeling compassion and responsibility is the key to fostering such ethics in a child.

It also lays the groundwork for developing empathy and an awareness for the experience of others- human and non-human alike.

5 It also lays the groundwork for developing empathy and an awareness for the experience of others- human and non-human alike.

Encouraging children to value all creatures, rather than place them in a hierarchy of worth, is critical to understanding the concepts of justice and equality.

6 Encouraging children to value all creatures, rather than place them in a hierarchy of worth, is critical to understanding the concepts of justice and equality.

Encouraging children to be open minded and not judge others based on appearances, fear or stereotypes, is fundamental to all social justice issues.

7 Encouraging children to be open minded and not judge others based on appearances, fear or stereotypes, is fundamental to all social justice issues.

Offering a home to an older animal who has lost her human is both gratifying and conveys the importance of valuing others regardless of age or appearance.

8 Offering a home to an older animal who has lost her human is both gratifying and conveys the importance of valuing others regardless of age or appearance.

Adopting a special needs animal teaches children about resilience, patience and strength to overcome obstacles.

9 Adopting a special needs animal teaches children about resilience, patience and strength to overcome obstacles.

Adopting a companion animal who has suffered or had a hard life teaches about forgiveness. It also offers children hope and allows them to experience making a positive impact.

10 Adopting a companion animal who has suffered or had a hard life teaches about forgiveness. It also offers children hope and allows them to experience making a positive impact.

Adopting a bonded pair of animals so they can stay together teaches the importance of companionship and sticking together through adversity...

11 Adopting a bonded pair of animals so they can stay together teaches the importance of companionship and sticking together through adversity...

...It can also lead to a fruitful discussion about sibling rivalry and appreciating one another.

12 ...It can also lead to a fruitful discussion about sibling rivalry and appreciating one another.

Adopting a bonded pair can lend itself to learning about sharing and looking out for one another.

13 Adopting a bonded pair can lend itself to learning about sharing and looking out for one another.

Adopting a pair that bunks  stereotypes about who should, and should not, be friends challenges children to think twice about stereotypes and to learn things for themselves.  (photo contributed by furfun)

14 Adopting a pair that bunks stereotypes about who should, and should not, be friends challenges children to think twice about stereotypes and to learn things for themselves. (photo contributed by furfun)

Companion animals model comradery and friendship...

15 Companion animals model comradery and friendship...

... Companion animals provide unconditional love and the absence of pretense...

16 ... Companion animals provide unconditional love and the absence of pretense...

...they are accepting of others as they are...
(Judy and the Rain Cat, Tallahassee, Florida.)

17 ...they are accepting of others as they are... (Judy and the Rain Cat, Tallahassee, Florida.)

...They offer affection...
(Rescues Eddie and Bella Bean)

18 ...They offer affection... (Rescues Eddie and Bella Bean)

They remind us to appreciate what is important and they do not take anything for granted...

19 They remind us to appreciate what is important and they do not take anything for granted...

...They are resourceful...
(Suki who was born deaf, sleeping on top of her mom, Sugar)

20 ...They are resourceful... (Suki who was born deaf, sleeping on top of her mom, Sugar)

...They are wise...
(Rescued dog Pepper)

21 ...They are wise... (Rescued dog Pepper)

...and willing to learn new things...

22 ...and willing to learn new things...

They are supportive...
(Walter and Mojito)

23 They are supportive... (Walter and Mojito)

They have relationships with family and friends... and feel protective of their loved ones, just like humans do...

24 They have relationships with family and friends... and feel protective of their loved ones, just like humans do...

And they are present in the moment.  An exercise most humans take a lifetime to master and appreciate...
(Pickles, rescued at 8 yrs old, enjoying the grass)

25 And they are present in the moment. An exercise most humans take a lifetime to master and appreciate... (Pickles, rescued at 8 yrs old, enjoying the grass)

And they need us to be their advocates!

26 And they need us to be their advocates!

Personal Responsibility...
It is through this experience that a child internalizes important values- "We are a family with an important choice to make, and we are going to use the power of this choice to save a life." This teaches kids about personal responsibility and their ability to effect the larger community as they make choices in life.

Children need to feel they can have have an impact on their world. We need to give them opportunities to do so in positive, pro-social ways. Adopting and properly caring for an animal can plant the seeds for that ethic.

The Importance of Planning and Commitment...
Conducting a family meeting to determine if you can meet an animal's needs, is a good place to start. You should explore issues such as whether a landlord permits animals, how much exercise the animal needs, how to provide for medical care, who will be responsible for feeding, training and walks, who will care for the animal on vacations, whether you have imminent plans to move, etc. Such a conversation conveys the importance of planning for the long term, navigating potential obstacles and committing to get through them-- for better or worse-- is an important step in conveying to your children, the inherent value of this new family member's life and wellbeing.

Answering these initial questions will also help determine what sort of animal would be a good match for your family. Don't hesitate to enroll the help of a local rescue group in making this decision.

Acceptance of Others...
The decision around which animal companion to adopt can provide for fruitful debates about your family's values. Perhaps yours is a family who is willing to provide a home to an older pet who has found himself in a shelter due to a move. Or perhaps you are willing to provide for a cat who has lost an eye or even a limb. This conveys that you see past age and physical 'limitations' and can appreciate another being's inherent worth. This teaches about acceptance and offers children a chance to witness the inspiring resilience in all animals.

Remaining Open Minded and Ignoring Stereotypes...
Perhaps your family is willing to provide a home for a pit bull or other breed disadvantaged by misconceptions and negative stereotypes. This teaches kids about pre-conceptions and difference. It also encourages them to learn for themselves and not buy into a public perception that may be biased or misinformed.

Shared Understanding...
Finally, for kids who are adopted themselves, adopting a pet provides an opportunity to talk about their feelings while also confirming a family's positive regard for others in need. Similarly, for a child who is hearing impaired, or who has a condition such as diabetes, adopting an animal with a similar condition, or other special needs (provided the resources exist to properly manage it), can be therapeutic and enriching for all involved.

There is no limit to the great lessons that you can teach when you opt to adopt. It benefits all involved and lives on in the growing minds of the children who participate. The ripple effect of this family activity will undoubtedly foster compassion for generations to come!

In Kinship,
Dr. Pia Salk

Be sure the check out the other great blogs that are part of today's event at Petside.com! And VOTE! The blogger whose article receives the most votes will receive $500 to donate to the shelter of their choice! I'd of course enlist the help of my fellow Daily Wagger's in deciding where we want to donate it!

Comments (18)

  • Good morning Dr. Pia,
    I was surprised to see you on here today. You are usually on Thursday's blog but it was a pleasant surprise. You always put the best pictures with the story you are telling us. It is sad that so many animals don't have a family to love them. I hope your post will inspire a lot of people to visit an animal shelter and hopefully fall in love one of the animals there and give it a great home.
    See ya,
    Maddox

  • Good morning Dr. Pia,
    When I was a child my dad would bring home all kinds of animals that were abandoned and we would take care of them till they could fend for themselves. Our place was like a mini wildlife haven. I am so glad my dad brought them home for me to care for as it helped mold me into a person who has the utmost compassion for all animals. Thank you for this post.
    Also, I want to thank everyone that commented on my birthday yesterday. Maddox had the chows "sing" to me, he did a good job. It was a very special day thanks to all of you for thinking about me.
    The Daily Wag truly is a special place to meet a great bunch of people and pets. I enjoy each and every one of you. Again, thank you.
    Karen

  • This beautiful, just yesterday our new adopted dog and our other dog were curled up together and Sadie cat was on top of them. The message delivered about love and empathy rings clear. I have a wonderful nephew who has great compassion for all animals, when he comes my cat Lilly who is rather reclusive, comes out from hiding and bonds with him. Love this. Teri

  • Hello Sweet Dr.Pia,
    Wonderfully written! :)
    Indeed, allowing a child to make a choice about an animal for a pet and the responsibility that goes with it, is so important.

    I know my daughters benefited from the choice and responsibility of owning pets...they are successful in their lives now because of that responsibility and dedication.

    I LOVE the photos...and what a sweet photo of Pickles, so cute.

    I VOTED, hope everyone else will as well ;)

    delia & Kitty =^..^=

  • Hello Dr. Pia,
    Thank you again for all your wonderful photos and information. I cast my vote already, and I am hoping The Daily Wag wins. I am e-mailing all my friends to cast their vote also. I was surprised but happy to see you on the blog today. I thought I was on the wrong day. I am getting older you know. Have a great day all and tell everyone to vote.
    Love & licks,
    Basil

  • Hi Dr. Pia,
    My Mimi would love to bring all the homeless doggies home, but, our house just isn't big enough....
    OMG..I signed on early yesterday and missed Karen's birthday! Here's my best biggest-of-the-small-ones belated birthday woof to you Karen. I bet your Chows did a great job..I know they love you.
    Adios amigos y amigas! Rebel

  • What terrific information! Adopting a pet (of any age) has a great impact on a child's development--and health. Infants exposed to healthy dogs and cats also reduce the child's risk of allergies to pets.

    Great pictures, too. I voted, too. *s*

  • Excellent piece, excellent points, excellent photos. Deserves to be widely disseminated, so I hope those that can will link and cross post. Thank you.

  • Beautifully put. These are the greatest lessons a parent can give a child.

  • Beautiful and very important story Dr. Pia. THANK YOU for sharing and for being a part of Pet 'Net!

  • Hi Dr. Pia, Thank you so much for sharing this delightful blog post about the fabulous ideas of people adopting fantastic animals who need someone to take special care of them and love them to pieces! I definitely voted for The Daily Wag and I hope more people will visit it so they can enjoy life through the eyes of F,S,GK,Dr.Pia, and all of our current followers who who are super, friendly, and very loveable! Since I don't have any children, my loveable babies are my sweet, little animals! Love to all, Jan

  • Beautiful and meaningful as always Dr. Pia. The photos are especially moving.

  • ..just got done voting for the Daily Wag..like we cattledogs have said before..every critter deserves a loving human..in a perfect world that would happen but this is far from a perfect world, too bad maybe someday...yesterday I zipped off with Lucinda, we stopped at the pier in Astoria so I could spy on the Stellar sea-lions that come to the Columbia River to catch salmon..I fired off barks for all my daily wagger pals..don't worry it din't upset them..they are huge and stinky and flopping about making LOTS of noise..it was fun..then spotted a bunch of brown pelicans coming across the Megler bridge...a 4 mile long bridge across the mouth..wish every doggie had a good life like us..over and out..cora-belle

  • GREAT post, will share on FB and Twitter. I love your insight. hope you can visit my blog -- i have never been here before but will bookmark it!
    Love it!!

    Jaime Smith

  • Dr. Pia,

    Thank you for this wonderful blog post. It is incredibly well written, and we happen to agree that animals can teach us (and we can teach, as well) so many great lessons when we "opt to adopt!"

    Thanks for participating in our 4th annual Pet 'Net event, and for helping raise awareness about the benefits of adoption!

  • My three year old daughter has learned to be "vewy gentle" with our two cats. I've watched them go from being apprehensive around her when she first started to notice them, to actually coming up to her now and allowing themselves to be loved on. I think it's because she learned how to treat them nicely - a lesson I hope she'll carry with her to all of the pets in her life. Great post!

  • BRAVO, Dr. Pia!!!!
    What a beautiful and true article about the benefits of pet adoption.
    Thank you!!

  • This is so important , I love a frenchie too and there is breed rescue for these pure bred dogs and cats as well but the shelters are brimming with Adoptable dogs and cats who have often been abandoned ( this should also be addressed , a commitment for the lifetime of your pet) There is a national crisis , the numbers of adoptable animals being killed in our shelters is ASTOUNDING ! Please help , Martha has a following and could do a lot of good. All Dogs and Cats are good and are sentient beings , the sooner we acknowledge this truth the better.
    Stop buying start saving advocate spay and Neuter and DO NOT support puppy mills. Here are some of NY animals in danger of dying today http://www.facebook.com/Urgentdeathrowdogs

Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear on this weblog until the author has approved them.