Through humane education, Texas Humane Network strives to help both children and adults develop empathy and increase their understanding of personal responsibility for animals, people, and the environment, and become motivated to make a positive difference in the world.
Our society has become increasingly aware of the connections between animal abuse and violence against people. Making the need to promote kindness and empathy through effective, humane education even more significant in our communities.
Humane education can be easily integrated into a traditional classroom setting, as part of a lesson within a core discipline, or as its own stand-alone activity.
Humane Education in America
Texans and their families love their animals! In 2018, the American Veterinary Medical Association estimated that 58% of Texans own pets. In fact, puppies were the number one item being sold throughout Texas during the height of the pandemic.
But despite millions of children living with and caring for animals in their households, it’s hard to believe that Texas does not require any type of humane curriculum in the classroom. Currently, thirteen states mandate some sort of curriculum surrounding the humane treatment of animals. California requires a curriculum dedicated to promoting kindness toward domestic pets and the humane treatment of living creatures. In Florida, members of the public schools’ instructional staff are required to teach empathy to animals, and Pennsylvania requires instruction in humane education to be given to all pupils up to and including the fourth grade (up to half an hour each week) during the entire school term.
We expect children and animals to live together, yet we offer children no understanding of animal behavior or even basic pet care. We get mad when children treat animals poorly by pulling their tails, teasing them, or even hitting them, but we don’t teach them why this behavior is wrong.
THN’s Humane Education Program
A humane curriculum would include a basic understanding of animal behavior, pet care, and empathy towards animals. Humane education is character education that fosters compassion, tolerance, and empathy for others, including non-human animals, and respect and responsibility. A humane education curriculum is not about preaching. Instead, students are encouraged to problem-solve. When students learn about the impact humans have on animals, they frequently want to use their voices to work toward a more just and fair world for all of its inhabitants.
Educators are always looking for new ways to motivate students and invigorate their teaching. Those teachers who integrate humane education (including teaching about kindness to animals) say students light up when discussing animals and their pets. It lowers the students’ stress levels and allows students to open up, creating a warmer and friendlier environment in the classroom for all learners.
Currently, a variety of Texas shelters and rescues offer a kindness curriculum that can be brought to a classroom. But it is few and far between. And the teachers seeking this curriculum already implement a kindness teaching philosophy. Imagine what a kinder place Texas would become if the curriculum were required throughout all Texas public schools? We could effectuate change for millions of Texans for generations to come.
We’ve been working to educate children for decades already!
Laws Regarding Humane Education in America, by State
No person shall, in the presence of a pupil in any elementary or high school under state control or supported wholly or partly by public money of the state, practice vivisection, or exhibit a vivisected animal. Dissection of dead animals or any portions thereof in such schools shall be confined to the class room and to the presence of pupils engaged in the study to be promoted thereby, and shall in no case be for the purpose of exhibition.
Live animals used as class pets or for purposes not prohibited in paragraphs one and two hereof in such schools shall be housed or cared for in a safe and humane manner. Said animals shall not remain in school over periods when such schools are not in session, unless adequate care is provided at all times.
The provisions of the preceding three paragraphs shall also apply to any activity associated with or sponsored by the school. Whoever violates the provisions of this section shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars.”
I. In this section:
(a) “Animal” means any member of the kingdom of Animalia.
(b) “Vertebrate animal” means any animal belonging to the subphylum Vertebrata of the phylum Chordata, and specifically includes all mammals, fishes, birds, reptiles and amphibians.
II. Live vertebrate animals shall not be used in experiments or observational studies, with the following exceptions:
(a) Observational studies may be made of the normal living patterns of wild animals, in the free living state or in zoological parks, gardens, or aquaria.
(b) Observational studies may be made of the living patterns of vertebrate animals in the classroom.
(c) Observational studies on bird egg embryos are permitted. However, if normal bird embryos are to be allowed to hatch, satisfactory humane consideration shall be made for disposal of the baby birds.
(d) Vertebrate animal cells such as red blood cells or other tissue cells, plasma or serum, or anatomical specimens, such as organs, tissues, or skeletons, may be used in experiments or observational studies.
III. No school principal, administrator or teacher shall allow any live vertebrate animal to be used in any elementary or secondary school, or in any activity associated with such school, such as science fairs, as part of a scientific experiment or procedure in which the health of the animal is interfered with, or in which pain, suffering, or distress is caused. Such experiments and procedures include, but are not limited to, surgery, anesthetization, and the inducement by any means of painful, lethal, or pathological conditions through techniques that include, but are not limited to:
(a) Administration of drugs;
(b) Exposure to pathogens, ionizing radiation, carcinogens, or to toxic or hazardous substances;
(c) Deprivation; or
(d) Electric shock or other distressing stimuli.
IV. All experiments on live vertebrate animals which are not prohibited by this section shall be carried out under the supervision of a competent science teacher who shall be responsible for ensuring that the student has the necessary comprehension for the study to be undertaken.
V. No person shall, in the presence of a pupil in any elementary or secondary school, perform any of the procedures or experiments described in paragraph III or exhibit any vertebrate animal that has been used in such manner. Dissection of any dead animal, or portions thereof, shall be confined to the presence of students engaged in the study to be promoted by the dissections.
VI. Science fair projects originating in other states that do not conform with the provisions of this section shall not be exhibited within the state.
VII. Any live animal kept in any elementary or secondary school shall be housed and cared for in a humane and safe manner and shall be the personal responsibility of the teacher or other adult supervisor of the project or study.
VIII. Ordinary agricultural procedures taught in animal husbandry courses shall not be prohibited by this section.
IX. Any person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor.
2. Study and care of live animals. Any school which cares for or uses animals for study shall ensure that each animal in such school be afforded the following: appropriate quarters; sufficient space for the normal behavior and postural requirements of the species; proper ventilation, lighting, and temperature control; adequate food and clean drinking water; and quarters which shall be cleaned on a regular basis and located in an area where undue stress and disturbance are minimized.
3. Application. The provisions of this section shall not be construed to prohibit or constrain vocational instruction in the normal practice of animal husbandry, or prohibit or constrain instruction in environmental education activities as established by the department of environmental conservation.
4. Dissection of animals. Any student expressing a moral or religious objection to the performance or witnessing of the dissection of an animal, either wholly or in part, shall be provided the opportunity to undertake and complete an alternative project that shall be approved by such student’s teacher; provided, however, that such objection is substantiated in writing by the student’s parent or legal guardian. Students who perform alternative projects who do not perform or witness the dissection of animals shall not be penalized. The board of education or trustees of a school district shall develop a policy to give reasonable notice to all students enrolled in a course that includes the dissection of an animal and students’ parents or legal guardians about their rights under this subdivision. Such notice shall be made available upon request at the school and distributed to parents and students enrolled in a course that includes dissection at least once at the beginning of the school year.
5. Treatment of live vertebrate animals. a. Except as provided for in this subdivision, no school district, school principal, administrator, or teacher shall require or permit the performance of a lesson or experimental study on a live vertebrate animal in any such school or during any activity conducted under the auspices of such school whether or not the activity takes place on the premises of such school where such lesson or experimental study employs: (i) micro-organisms which cause disease in humans or animals, (ii) ionizing radiation, (iii) known cancer producing agents, (iv) chemicals at toxic levels, (v) drugs producing pain or deformity, (vi) severe extremes of temperature, (vii) electric or other shock, (viii) excessive noise, (ix) noxious fumes, (x) exercise to exhaustion, (xi) overcrowding, (xii) paralysis by muscle relaxants or other means, (xiii) deprivation or excess of food, water or other essential nutrients, (xiv) surgery or other invasive procedures, (xv) other extreme stimuli, or (xvi) termination of life.
b. Notwithstanding any inconsistent provision of this section, the commissioner may, upon the submission of a written program plan, issue to such school a written waiver of such restrictions for students subject to the following provisions: (i) the student shall be in grade ten, eleven, or twelve; and (ii) the student shall be under the supervision of one or more teachers certified in science; and (iii) the student shall be pursuing an accelerated course of study in the sciences as defined by the commissioner in preparation for taking a state or national advanced placement examination. The commissioner shall issue a waiver of such restrictions for any teacher certified in science instructing such student. The written program plan shall include, but not be limited to: (i) the educational basis for requesting a waiver; (ii) the objective of the lesson or experiment; (iii) the methods and techniques to be used; and (iv) any other information required by the commissioner.
6. Report. On or before the first day of January next succeeding the effective date of this amended section, the commissioner shall annually submit a report to the governor and the legislature which shall include, but not be limited to, the number of written program plan proposals submitted by schools and the number of such proposals subsequently approved by the commissioner. In those cases where a program plan proposal has been approved by the commissioner, such plan shall be appended to and become a part of the commissioner’s annual report. ”