Should Classroom Pets Be Banned?

Richard Perry/The New York Times/Redux (chinchilla); Debate photos courtesy of families

For students across the United States, the start of the school year means meeting new teachers and classmates. Some will also say hello to their new class pets. Many teachers keep fish, hamsters, and other animals in their classrooms.

Teachers say students learn important lessons from the animals. According to the American Humane organization, more than 70 percent of teachers who have classroom pets say the animals help students learn responsibility. Research also shows that classroom pets can reduce stress. 

“Pets are great companions and can comfort kids who are having a bad day,” says Lisa Robbins. She works for a group called Pets in the Classroom. 

But others think pets should be expelled from classrooms. In January, the Durango School District in Colorado began enforcing a no-pet policy. Now animals can be brought into Durango schools for certain lessons, but they can’t stay. Officials were worried that animals might create problems for kids with allergies. They were also concerned about the animals getting proper care.

“Who will ensure that they are protected and fed over weekends and during school breaks?” asks Andrew Burns, the chief operations officer for the Durango district. 

Here’s what two of our readers think.

Schools should ban pets because they can be a distraction and take away from valuable class time. Some students might have a hard time focusing on the teacher when there are animals in the room.

Plus, having a classroom pet can cause safety hazards. You never know how an animal will react to students. Even a cute little hamster might nip a kid who sticks his or her hand in its cage. 

In addition, being in a noisy classroom with kids poking at the cages can be stressful for animals. Students might not know how to handle animals. They could drop the pets or be too rough.

Having classroom pets gives students a fun way to learn about animals and their habitats. In my class last year, we had a bearded dragon named Elliot as our class pet. Our teacher also used him to teach us about different subjects. For example, in math, we calculated how much it costs to feed Elliot for a year.

Pets also help kids learn how to work as a team. My classmates and I took turns feeding Elliot and cleaning his tank.

If teachers are worried about students with allergies, they could get pets that don’t have fur. Reptiles like Elliot or fish are some good options.

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