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There is clear scientific evidence that children growing up with a pet develop better social skins and have a greater respect for all living things around them, than those who do not have the benefits of pet ownership.
Children soon learn that animals consistently show non-judgmental love and loyalty as well as experiencing pain, hunger, illness and eventual death - a poignant preparation for life ahead.
For some children, there is the experience of witnessing birth and the demonstration of a mother's love, care and attention, as well as the added responsibility, which is to be shared by the whole family.
Furthermore, Pets can increase the attention span of children with learning difficulties.
In Croatia, a study aimed at comparing the social-emotional characteristics of pet-owner and non pet-owner school children and the type of pet they own. It concluded that pet-ownership had a positive impact and that the type of pet was an important variable. Ref "Pet-ownership, type of pet and social development of children" (Vesna Vlahovic Stetic, Department of Psychology, University of Zagreb).
A study of 37 elementary urban and rural schools in Australia found that the presence of cats not only improved children's knowledge of responsible pet ownership, but also increased class cohesiveness and the general atmosphere. The study, presented by Jonica Newby from the PetCare Information and Advisory Service, also discovered that the cats generated a calm, orderly environment, modified disruptive behaviour and reduced friction. Ref Jonica Newby: "Using cats in elementary school classrooms to modify the attitudes and behaviour of children".
Green Chimneys is a social service agency and psychiatric facility in the USA which, for the last 50 years, has helped to rehabilitate disturbed children back into the community, through a pioneering form of animal therapy. Run by Dr Sam Ross and his wife, Myra, the programmes utilise interaction with animals to help the children to find ways of coping with their problems and learn, sometimes for the first time, vital social skills and responsibility. Ref Sam and Myra Ross: "The evolving role of animals and the needs of youth: A review of 50 years of programming for the integration of humans and animals"
To enhance knowledge on the factors that rule the coexistence of man and animal in an urban environment together with the many aspects of Animal Assisted Activities (AAA), the city of Rome and the Veterinary Public Health Department have developed a "Health education programme in primary and secondary schools" (Anna Faini, Veterinary Service, Local Health Unit Rome "D").