Pets in the Classroom Grants Provides Furry (and not-so-furry) Friends

How you can help your child's preschool teacher secure a grant for a class pet

pets in the classroom
A classroom pet can be a valuable teaching tool. With the Pets in the Classroom program, teachers can apply for grants to purchase pets for the class. Gary Scott/

A great way to teach preschoolers important life lessons in responsibility, nurturing, and caring is to get them a pet, or at least expose them to animals in some way. For many little ones, getting to interact with animals comes in the form of a class pet. While class pets are a wonderful way to help kids learn, there is a cost involved, that many preschools simply can't take on.

To help students and teachers in preschool through the eighth grade in both public and private get their own class pet, the Pet Care Trust is continuing with their popular Pets in the Classroom grant program.

Starting August 3, the program will begin accepting applications for the 2015-2016 school year.  

"It is something we promote because there are so many skills that children learn by having a class pet: self-regulation, compassion, empathy, observation skills, responsibility, etc.," said Amy Wible, the child development and disabilities coordinator at Cen-Clear Child Services, an organization who partners with Pet Care Trust, and who highly encourages their Head Start and preschool programs to bring pets into the classroom. "I could find child goals in every area of the standards related to caring for pets."

According to the Pet Care Trust, many studies have found that caring for pets has a positive effect on children, including:

  • improving school attendance
  • increasing interest in the classroom
  • teaching children responsibility
  • encouraging nurturing
  • building self-esteem

"My experience with the classroom pets have been wonderful," said Jennifer Kitko, a teacher at the West Branch Head Start in West Branch, Pennsylvania.

"The children get very excited when it is their turn to feed and care for our pets. They love to watch the crabs come out of their shells and walk around. Having a pet in our classroom has taught some students that were having some sharing problems about taking turns and working together."

Many teachers report that having a class pet also helps children behave better.


"We have several children who have difficulty following directions or sitting still at circle time," said Karen Jacobs, a teacher at Matternville Head Start in Port Matilda, Pennsylvania. "The children love getting the hermit crab out so it can join us at circle time. Our rule is 'sit quietly on your bottom so we don't scare the crab.' All children in the class will sit on their square trying their best not to wiggle or talk too loudly. The children will remind each other, 'we have to be quiet so Lalaoopsy (the hermit crab) will come out of her shell.'"

According to a joint study done by Pet Care Trust and the American Humane Association, the most common classroom pets adopted by interviewed teachers were fish, followed by guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits. The least common classroom pets among the listed choices were bearded dragons. Teachers cited numerous reasons pets in the classroom were beneficial for students, including children learning about animal care and compassion, responsibility, science and nature, empathy, and social skills.

So far, over 56,000 grants have been awarded to teachers since 2011, with approximately 2.5 million students across the United States reaping the benefits of having a pet in their classroom. With one of eight different types of grants available, teachers can buy a new pet (through one of the program's participating stores, including Petco, Petsmart, Pet Supermarket, Pet Supplies Plus, Petland, and Petland Discounts – or to purchase their pet through a local pet store through a rebate grant), or use another grant to buy a pet environment or pet food. Sustaining grants provide up to $50 for supplies for an existing pet. Applicants apply directly on the Pet Care Trust website.

The hope is to get pets in 100,000 classrooms country-wide, introducing 5 million children to new friends.

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