Why animal encounters?
Whether you are a teacher thinking about booking classroom sessions, a carer, parent, council, holiday club or event organiser- if you are looking to involve animals you will likely also be thinking about the “why” and not just the “how”. There’s no denying we all love animals, but it is important to consider welfare and also the justification for working with living creatures.
There’s no comparable experience to being able to see, smell, hear and touch real animals and interactions have been proven beneficial to people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds, in all kinds of ways. At Reptiles Etc we believe that meaningful and respectful encounters with animal ambassadors can evoke and encourage a strong sense of kinship, awareness and responsibility for the nature and help inspire the next generation of scientists, activists, carers and politicians to take better care of our environment and work harder towards protecting our fragile planet. Meeting real animals simply cannot be matched by reading a book, watching a film or searching the internet in terms of igniting a true sense of connection and passion for living things.
More than that, research has found animal encounters have many educational and health merits to young people in particular when integrated into learning sessions, both in and out of the classroom by stimulating learning, teaching responsibility, sensitivity and caring for others and the environment, improving health and wellbeing and building self-esteem, benefitting:
· Social behaviour
· Emotional wellbeing
· Language, literacy, and communication
· Physical development
· Imagination, curiosity, and creativity.
Find the research here: https://www.petsintheclassroom.org/research/
When it comes to SEN groups, animals of all types can have wide reaching therapeutic effects for individuals when brought into specialist settings such as schools, groups or homes, even out on the road at public events. Read more about it here: https://senmagazine.co.uk/content/activities/complementary-therapy/16233/animals-in-education/
Even the RSPCA is calling for schools to do more to educate pupils about welfare matters and caring for animals- hands-on encounters are a great way to implement this. https://www.rspca.org.uk/whatwedo/education/action
The Association of Zoos and Aquaria recognise that “ambassador animals are an important tool for conveying both cognitive and emotional messages regarding animals and the need to conserve wildlife and wild places.”, and support the appropriate use of live animals for the purposes of education in the classroom, at visitor attractions and through outreach. https://assets.speakcdn.com/assets/2332/cec_ambassador_animal_position_statement_2015.pdf
Finally, it is important to mention than not all animal carers, or indeed encounters organisations were created equal. If you are looking to hire animals be it for party encounters, events, or schools sessions (and we would argue the educational value is just as high in more conventional entertainment settings as it is in the classroom), be sure to hire from companies that hold a current Animal Activities License- a relatively new certification required by UK welfare law that ensures an organisation carry the relevant experience and welfare standards.
Here are Reptiles Etc strive to go further than that. We are ourselves all highly qualified experienced animal industry professionals from zoo keeping, zoology, veterinary and teaching backgrounds, and we have a mission to improve our own individual learning through research and ongoing CPD and continually work to further our welfare to be the very best we can be for the animals in our care as well as our clients, and we truly believe it shows in the health and behaviour of our animals, the passion and commitment of our animal trainers and presenters, and the quality of the services we deliver.
To read our welfare statement, scroll down to the bottom of the home page.