The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) and the Pet Care Trust awarded a combined $130,000 grant to American Humane, for a study titled, Pets in the Classroom (PIC): What are the Social, Behavioral, and Academic Effects of Classroom Pets for Children, 8-10 Years? It is hypothesized that students with a classroom pet will experience increased social skills, improved academic competence and decreased competing problem behaviors compared to students who do not have a classroom pet.
“Animals are common in today’s elementary school classrooms, and we are learning more and more about their positive impact on child well-being and development,” said principal investigator Dr. Amy McCullough, American Humane national director of research and therapy. “This study will provide meaningful insight on the broad impact of child and animal relationships and help prepare schools and teachers with the responsibilities necessary to support the humane and effective incorporation of pets in classrooms and curricula.”
The first phase of the PIC Study concluded in May 2015 and was supported by The Pet Care Trust, which operates the Pets in the Classroom grant program. The first phase consisted of surveying and interviewing teachers on their perspectives regarding the main benefits, challenges and uses of their classroom pets, which ranged from fish to guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons and others. This second phase of the study will examine approximately 650 students and parents, as well as 46 teachers from 23 U.S. third and fourth grade classrooms over the course of a nine-month school year. Students, teachers and parents will complete questionnaires at three times throughout the study period to measure the social, behavioral and academic effects of classroom pets and human-animal relationships on children.
“The Pet Care Trust established the Pets in the Classroom educational grant program to provide children with an opportunity to interact with pets,” said Steve King, executive director of the Pet Care Trust and president of the Pet Industry Distributors Association. “Anecdotally, we know that incorporating pets in the classroom teaches life lessons of empathy and responsibility and helps shape students’ lives for years to come. This study will further advance the scientific data behind the benefits of the program to help it expand its reach so that more and more children can experience the benefits of the human-animal bond.”