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Small animals as classroom pets

ALIVE News 25 September, 1998 x

School animals: some questions for the Ministry of Culture and Education

By Fusako Nogami.

All over Japan, primary schools keep small animals as classroom pets. As mentioned in newsletter #20, ALIVE asked schools to report any problems, and summed up their reaction in a paper published in March. On 8 October, we confronted an official of the Monbusho with the results.

According to the representative, schools are encouraged to keep classroom pets so children can learn to relate to animals naturally. The most frequently kept animals are rabbits and chickens, but this is due to historical reasons rather any preference of the Ministry, which would be content with snails or bugs. Schools are not forced to keep animals, so there are no budgetary arrangements for their upkeep.

The official was aware of the problem of weekends and holidays, when nobody was at the school to look after the animals, but could not offer a satisfactory solution. At some schools employees would take turns feeding the animals, at others with public access some neighbour would oblige. Public access would create other problems, though.

Should animals nevertheless be considered necessary for educational purposes, the following alternatives suggest themselves:

  • schools might keep small animals that can be taken home over the weekend: hamsters, mice;
  • for small children animals that do not need a lot of looking after might be ideal: snails.
In an effort to convey to children that cats and dogs must not be abandonded, rescuing animals from the Hokensho might be an option. Rather than keeping animals, an occasional visit to a an animal sanctuary might prove educational.