British Columbia

Victoria considers ban on classroom pets

The Greater Victoria School Board is developing a policy for classroom pets that will consider B.C. SPCA guidelines that include not leaving animals behind in an emergency or drill.

Concerns raised over animals left behind during emergencies

Mr. Green is a hedgehog who became the classroom pet at the Montessori School of Charlottetown in the spring of 2017. (Noah Richardson/CBC)

Don't leave the classroom bunny behind in a fire drill.

That recommendation by the B.C. SPCA has fuelled consideration of a possible ban on classroom pets by the Greater Victoria School Board. 

Concerns over the treatment of classroom pets were raised by trustee and former teacher Diane McNally on Monday.

McNally brought forward a motion to develop a policy on classroom pets that would consider the B.C. SPCA's opposition to them unless 10 requirements are met. 

The conditions include removing the pet from the building during an emergency or drill. 

"One of the things that we owe that pet in the 10 points is that the classroom pet is evacuated in an emergency drill, along with the students," McNally said. "And that's really quite difficult to do."

"That would have been the stuff of nightmares for me. That fluffy bunny is going to be left behind."

McNally says classrooms do have stickers to put on doors for firefighters that say: "Save my pet." 

However, that practice does not satisfy the B.C. SPCA's conditions.

The Greater Victoria School Board is going to consider the B.C. SPCA guidelines when developing policy on classroom pets. (B.C. SPCA)

McNally says that programs geared to teach children about compassion and empathy could simply use a visiting animal. 

"I really don't think there is any humane education that can't take place with an animal visitor that can go home to its own home," McNally said. 

The president of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, Jason Gammon, believes that animals can be used to teach empathy.

"I think the big piece is that it can be used as an educational tool," Gammon said. 

"For instance, the salmonid, when I have taught the younger grades, that is part of the curriculum, so that is an education tool. 

"And on the other side, I think it can help with empathy when you've got a nice fuzzy little animal."

Although McNally's motion to develop a classroom pet policy was passed, she doesn't expect any recommendations in the near future, saying that the committee is already busy addressing other issues.