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Taking action

Those of us who care for animals or children may want to seek some answers or strategies about how to help if there is a breakdown in their relationship.

Children are not naturally cruel, although they can be curious and are not always
wise. How you react to what they do is a key factor in what will happen next.

Even though you may be appalled at the behaviour, make sure the child knows
you are not appalled at them. Separate the behaviour from the person. It is
important to teach children that being kind to animals is the right thing to do.

Being very angry or blaming may make the child feel alone and isolated from
you. This may affect your chance to be one of the people who can model and
teach kind behaviour. Try to always let the child/young person know that they
are valued and important.

Children need to be supported in changing the way they think about and behave towards animals.

Principles for an action plan

  1. Safety
    You need to ensure that both children and animal are safe. To keep animals safe, follow the principle to either supervise or separate. Check the safety for the young person in all settings. Contact other adults who need to help with this if necessary. This could include teachers, family and coaches.
  2. Management
    Manage interactions and promote the desired behaviour with positive reinforcement strategies. You might set up a contract with the child or young person, counting the number of times they complete the chosen positive behavior, and providing an agreed upon reward after a certain number of repetitions.
  3. Teaching and Reinforcement
    Many young people are fascinated with animals and are highly motivated by contact with them. This can provide an opportunity for learning to happen as long as it is ensured that the welfare of all animals and humans are considered in the planning.
    • Talk to your child. Help them understand that animals can feel pain.
    • Try to find out what caused the act of cruelty. Explain that animals need to feel safe just as people do.
    • Monitor interactions in an ongoing way.

Download the full Action Plan in PDF

Download the full Action Plan in PDF

RSPCA education children and animal cruelty

More information
Cruelty to Animals - the 'link' to human violence
 Encouraging kindness in children
 >  Empathy reading list

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