Debate photos courtesy of families; (all other images) 

Should Schools Have Classroom Pets?

When teacher Hollie Nelsen arrives in her classroom each morning, Cleo is there to greet her. And when students leave at the end of the day, Cleo stays behind. That’s because she lives in the school! Cleo, a bearded dragon, is one of the pets at the Sarasota School of Arts and Sciences in Florida. Students at the middle school care for about 50 fish and 2 rats in addition to Cleo. 

Tara Tahmosh, the school’s principal, says having pets in classrooms has helped students feel less anxious. She adds that being around the animals has also improved the kids’ behavior. 

“They become a little more respectful,” Tahmosh explains. “They won’t raise their voices. They don’t want to upset an animal.” 

But some people think classrooms aren’t good homes for pets, which are often left alone overnight and on weekends. Critics also worry that being in busy classrooms with kids poking at the cages or tanks can be stressful for the animals.

Here’s what two of our readers think.

Caring for classroom pets helps teach kids responsibility. When I was in third and fourth grades, my class had chickens as classroom pets. We took care of them and fed them, and our teachers integrated the chickens into our science lessons.

Having animals in the classroom also helps kids stay calm and reduces their stress. According to one study, 74 percent of pet owners in the U.S. report an improvement in mental health due to their pets.

Though I like animals, there are a lot of risks in keeping pets in classrooms. First, some kids are allergic to animal fur. Their allergies can flare up just by having something as small as a hamster in the room. Also, some pets can carry diseases that could be transmitted to humans. Having cute pets in school isn’t worth getting sick.

A classroom pet can also be a distraction for students. They might not listen to their teacher because they’re paying attention to the pet instead.

What does your class think?

Should schools have classroom pets?

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