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Children and animal cruelty

Are you concerned about the way a child is treating an animal? When children hurt animals, something is wrong in their lives.

As many as 83% of Australians are likely to grow up with pets as part of the family. Most of the time, these animals are an important and positive part of our children’s lives. The family pet may be a child's friend, companion and confidante.

Sadly, not all children will develop caring relationships with their animals. As adults, if we become aware of young people who are hurting or acting cruelly towards animals, we can become distressed and unsure about what to do.

Children who hurt animals may be acting impulsively or without thought, they may be acting out something they have seen or heard, or may be acting out their own pain and the powerlessness of a life that features violence or neglect. Those of us who care for animals or for children may want to seek some answers or strategies about how to help when the relationships between children and animals take a wrong turn.

Just having an animal around will not teach a child kindness.
Children need to be guided by caring adults.

When children harm animals, most of the time it is a warning sign that something is wrong. Children who have grown up with violence or neglect are overrepresented among those likely to act cruelly towards animals.

Sometimes young people are acting out images they have seen on TV or the internet. Sometimes their actions are a confronting mirror to the attitudes our society holds towards animals we have decided to categorise as ‘pest’.

There are a lot of things that parents and carers can do to encourage the development of kindness and empathy in their children. Spending time with your children is always of benefit to them, and spending time with your animals as well is a great way to ensure that children are learning what they should from spending time with pets.

> Learn more about encouraging empathy through reading

You are right to be concerned about acts of cruelty

> Form an action plan to address children and animal cruelty

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of an animal, please contact the RSPCA Inspectorate.

If you are concerned about the immediate safety of a child, please contact Child Protection Victoria.

Please note: this information is intended to provide a summary and general overview of this issue. This does not constitute counselling guidance and it is critical that you seek professional advice from respective industry professionals, tailored to your circumstances.
More information
Cruelty to animals - the 'link' to human violence
Encouraging kindness in children
 > Empathy reading list
 > Forming an action plan

RSPCA education children and animal cruelty

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