Survey of Pet Animals in the Classroom

More than half of our nation’s households contain a companion animal and there is more and more support for animals in special settings, like hospitals and nursing homes, and even in the workplace.

Schools are our children’s workplace and animals are found in our children’s elementary school classrooms.

At the end of 1998 Anthony G. Rud Jr, of School of Education and Alan M. Beck, of the College of Veterinary Medicine sent out 1,999 surveys to elementary school teachers in Indiana.

Responses from 428 teachers (21.4%) provided some insights into the presence and roles of animals in classrooms. More than a quarter of classrooms had classroom animals.

An analysis of predictors of why and why not animals are utilized in the classroom is underway. Besides resident animals, 72% of classrooms with pets allow students to bring in their own on occasion. Perhaps surprisingly, 46% of classrooms without resident animals do allow the children to bring in their own, at least on occasion.

There were a significant variety of animals utilized as classroom pets and analysis is underway to assess patterns, problems and roles the different species play. 

Sample of animals found in Indiana classrooms: 

  • Mammals, including Chinchilla, Gerbils, Guinea pigs, Hamsters, Mice, White rats, Hedge hogs, Rabbits and Birds (e.g., Parakeets)
  • Reptiles, including Anoles, Iguanas, Legless Lizards, Snakes (e.g., Corn, Boa constrictor, and Garter), and Turtles, including Box turtles
  • Amphibians, including Salamanders, Frogs (including African and tree frogs), and Toads
  • Fish, including guppies, Goldfish, Beta, and basic tropical fishes
  • Insects, e.g., Ant farm, Butterflies, Caterpillars, Cockroaches (including hissing), Crickets, and Mealworms
  • Invertebrates, including worms, Hermit crabs and Crawdads, Sea anemone, Snails, and Spiders, e.g., Tarantula

The animals serve to motivate the students to work well and behave in ways that would be better for the animals - therefore better for the class in general.

Care for the animals provides opportunities for the children to be caregivers and are a strong reward for working well in class.

The study was funded by grants from The Pet Care Trust and The Center.