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SPCA launches school education programme to reduce animal abuse

02 July 2016
SPCA launches school education programme to reduce animal abuse

The SPCA has today launched a nationwide education programme into primary and intermediate schools aiming to shape how the next generation of New Zealanders treat animals.

New Zealand has very high levels of animal abuse and every year the SPCA continues to care for thousands of lost, abandoned, injured or abused animals. The organisation recognised it needed something different to break this trend and after significant research, developed the free programme launched today.

The SPCA Chief Scientific Officer Dr Arnja Dale oversaw the strategy of the programme and says the programme is one of the most important steps the SPCA has taken to reduce animal abuse in the SPCA’s 127 year history.

“Each year the SPCA cares for around 60,000 animals that have been lost, abandoned, injured, or abused. We recognised the need to do something that will have a real impact on bringing this number down by educating the next generation of animal owners,” Dr Dale says.

“We’ve spent the past three years working with education leaders developing this programme to get it right. If there was only one thing SPCA could do to create behavioural change in New Zealanders’ treatment of animals, we wholeheartedly believe this education programme would be it,” she adds.

Based on the findings from numerous studies in the field of animal welfare education and humane education, the programme has been developed by teachers, for teachers, led by SPCA Education Manager Nicole Peddie, in conjunction with curriculum consultant and former Ministry of Education Curriculum Group Manager Mary Chamberlain. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) was also employed to formatively evaluate the programme during the piloting phases.

The resulting evidence-based education programme for schools fits into the curriculum and fosters understanding, compassion and respect towards animals, including responsible behaviour and pet ownership. It teaches animal welfare in a practical, real life way such as students using maths to calculate the costs of owning a pet and debating issues like the importance of de-sexing pets. The resources are free to teachers who register.

The nationwide launch follows a successful pilot programme in 22 Auckland primary and intermediate schools. Results from the pilot study show a strong shift in students’ knowledge, understanding and attitudes about animal welfare. A significant part of the programme is also about children developing empathy towards animals.

“There is substantial research highlighting the co-occurrence between human and animal abuse. The SPCA education programme aims to encourage empathy towards all animals and people, thereby creating positive behavioural change in the future generation,” Dr Dale says.

RNZSPCA CEO Ric Odom says the development of this education programme by Auckland is a huge credit to those involved and its launch is a true milestone for the whole organisation.

“I think that we will look back at this launch as a critical juncture for animal welfare in New Zealand,” says Mr Odom.

Primary and intermediate teachers across the country can gain free, unlimited access to the extensive collection of teaching and learning materials by registering online at www.teachers.spcaeducation.org.nz.

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