Pets Teach Kids Responsibility

By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views

Someone, who I was close to, called me up to say that she wanted to get rid of her daughter’s rabbit. Her nine-year old child was no longer interested in caring for the rabbit because she got a cat, and she 171904871_baf80d7f22 liked the new pet better.

This person knows that I write about pets and wildlife and wanted to know if I knew of a place where they could unload the pet. I told her that replacing one pet for another is a bad lesson to teach a child, and that my site, Pet News and Views doesn’t list adoptable pets. My site covers animal welfare and pet care.

All Animals Need Our Love

When I was 13, I took zoology classes at the Bronx Zoological Society. I grew up in the Bronx, and went to the zoo every Saturday to learn about animals. In the summer, when I graduated from the program, I had a choice to either volunteer at the Bronx Zoo or the Central Park Zoo.

Being in Manhattan was far cooler; so, I chose to volunteer at the Central Park Zoo. While at the zoo, I got close to several animals. I was allowed to handle a sparrow hawk, a boa constrictor, and I made friends with ducks, lambs, sheep, goats and other animals in the Children’s Zoo. My favorite was a lamb.

I was at the zoo every Tuesday and Thursday. It was my last week in August before going back to school. I raced to the Children’s Zoo looking for the lamb. I found out from one of the zoo keepers that the lamb died. I just started sobbing. The zoo keeper took me into the monkey cage with Panzee, a friendly young chimpanzee.

Panzee saw how sad I was and immediately gave me a hug. He sat on my lap as I cried. I don’t remember the zoo keeper’s name, yet I clearly remember he said: “You must love all of the animals equally.”

Pointing to Panzee, he said: “How do you think he would feel if you liked one animal better than him? You really must share your love. Whether, it’s chimpanzees, lambs, goats, cats or dogs, you will have a number of animals in your life, and all of them will be special.”

Fast Forward

The day I brought my son, Jordon, home from the hospital—10 years ago—a nurse asked me what was I going to do with my cat. I talked a lot about missing Earl Gray (our family cat) while I was in the hospital. So, I guess she overheard me.

I honestly didn’t understand the question. Then I learned that many people relinquish their pets at shelters when they bring home a newborn, when they get married, when they want a different pet, when they move, etc.

I had no thought of giving up Earl Gray. Today Earl and Jordon are friends, and Jordon cares about animals.  Children learn so much from taking care of a pet. They learn responsibility and compassion.

A Former Friend

 The woman who called me about unloading the rabbit is no longer a friend. She still has the rabbit and is looking for a new home for it. I feel bad about losing a friend, but I honestly lost respect for someone who would trade in one pet for another.

Giving up one pet because another one comes along is wrong and it is a poor lesson to teach a child. I tell parents to talk to pet owners before they adopt. Parents must be sure their children are ready to pitch in and help.

As a child, we had two dogs. My dad said that he would get rid of them if I didn’t take care of them. So, I got up early to make sure they were paper trained as pups, walked them, and fed them. My dad would have given them up if I hadn’t pitched in. I didn’t think of it as a lot of work at the time. If it was, it was truly worth it. And for my son, I believe he is more compassionate because he has a cat for a brother.

Michele C. Hollow writes the animal welfare blog Pet News and Views. Pet News and Views covers pet care, pet travel, and people who work with and on behalf of animals. 


Similar Posts


  1. This is so important, Michele. However, kids can’t learn the responsibility without some parental responsibility. I, too, wanted a dog so bad I made the commitment to it when my Mom finally let me have a dog. But, kids will slack off and not perform their pet parent duties, if allowed. And, too many parents allow it because they didn’t really want a pet to begin with.
    In this case, I would have helped find the rabbit a GOOD home, rather than leave it to this person. She’s not capable. The rabbit is in danger – maybe not real physical danger, but… I would worry that neglect might happen, or that the owner would hand the rabbit over to just anyone.
    I was amazed at the number of small animals at our local shelter when we got our dogs. Lots of animals, besides dogs and cats, need loving homes. We don’t write about them often enough. IMBO (in my brazen opinion – it’s so much better to be brazen, don’t you think?)

  2. Yvonne, I just found out that this person is keeping the rabbit. The rabbit is kept in a large cage outdoors with lots of room to move around. Since the weather is nice, she and her family are hanging out in the backyard, and they are playing with the rabbit.
    I don’t know what will happen when fall/winter comes, but she saw me last night at a school event, and said she is trying to get her daughter to take care of the rabbit. I’m hoping for the best.

  3. It is an awful lesson to teach a child. However, I am a firm believer in saving the pet from bad owners. Our two shelties remind me daily that pets should not suffer for other’s stupidity and irresponsiblity.
    What is so sad is this woman is not alone in her progression through pets. I know of others who have done the same thing. One pet is a mistake and while it is not to be praised one hopes the family learns they are not ready to take on the work and leaves off pets for some time. Instead, this woman gets a cat and I have watched some people go through 4 pets still looking for the “right” fit. It has nothing to do with the animal and everything to do with their lack of responsiblity and maturity (the parents not the children) in caring for the pets. They need friends and family to help them stop.

  4. Great article. I agree that a great way for kids to learn is from their pets. I enjoyed taking care of my dogs growing up and I will do the same with my kids one day. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  5. Great post! I had a rabbit, dog, and fish growing up. I was responsible for cleaning out the rabbit cage and making sure my rabbit had food and water. I had to clean up after the dog and make sure he had food and water. The same goes for the fish. Pets are no different than children. I learned responsibility and what it means to have another ‘living being’ depend on you.

Comments are closed.