MowWow Animals A Curriculum in Humane Education

Pets and Working Animals

Goal: To understand the human obligation toward animal companions—pets and working, or service, animals.

Content: The primary focus of this lesson is domesticated companion animals, primarily those we call pets. Students will be asked to think about what defines a pet and why we keep pets. The animated feature contrasts the treatment given to two dogs, one of whom is chained outdoors and another with whom a child is playing inside a home. The feature encourages students to reflect on what a pet needs in order to be happy and healthy. A secondary focus of the lesson is the role of working animals in different situations including companion service animals such as guide, medical alert, and other kinds of service dogs, as well as therapy cats. In this lesson:

  • Students will recognize the physical and emotional needs of animals who are pets. Students will develop character and a sense of responsibility by learning that pets require care and protection.
  • Students will develop empathy for animals by seeing how their own needs and happiness are similar to those of animals. Students will become aware of the special body language of some domestic animals/pets (cats, dogs, and rabbits) and learn to “read” and react to that body language.
  • Students will learn about the different ways in which working, or service, animals help people in need.
  • Students will explore ways in which other cultures treat animals as they develop critical thinking skills to discern cross-cultural differences. Students will understand that in our society cruel or inhumane treatment of animals is against the law, and they will learn what they can do to help animals in such situations.
  • Students will recognize the humane treatment of animals and learn about efforts made toward promoting such treatment.

What You Need to Do

  • Watch Mow Wow’s animated movie with the students.
  • Follow the movie with questions, discussion, and activities.
  • Use the reading “What Dogs Do Dogs Want?” to teach students about the special needs of our canine companion animals.
  • Close the lesson with the poems provided.

Note: Our lesson is designed for easy adaptation to the age and level of your class. You can simply illustrate the points we are making, using the examples and questions we provide, or you can amend the lesson. There is a wealth of material available on the nature and care of pets and the tasks performed by service animals, and you can expand this lesson with that material. We provide a short grade-appropriate resource list for your reference.

What You Need for This Lesson

For the activities, we recommend you have crayons or markers, drawing paper, and poster boards or large sheets of colored paper. For some activities you will need Internet access or a computer from which you can view videos in DVD format.

Let's Begin!

Mow Wow Movie

Prior to showing your students the animated feature Animals Have Feelings Too, ask your students to tell you what a companion animal is. Your students might reply that companion animals are pets. Who in the class has a pet? How many and what kind? What are their names?

Show the movie. If you have projection capability in your classroom, hook your computer up to your screen to watch the Mow Wow movie Animals Have Feelings Too, which lasts less than one minute, with your class. If your classroom lacks computer capability, you can print screen shots and use these to explain the movie to your class. After watching the movie, lead your class in a discussion of it.

Animals Have Feelings Too

Day and Night Movie Poster

Click here to watch the movie

Focus of the Discussion

The animated movie focuses on pets and their need for proper care and sustained attention. Part of caring for pets is realizing that they have feelings and that their emotional life needs care and attention too. In return, pets provide wonderful and important companionship and enrichment to people.

Below are questions that will spur student discussion. Suggested discussion points and background information related to the movie appear in italics following each question.

Note: Glossary words appear in bold.


Note: Please be aware that the questions range from simple to more complex and the more complex questions are designed to stimulate discussion.

  • 1. What does the movie show? Which dog seems happy, and which one is sad? What kinds of feelings do animals have?

The movie shows two contrasting ways that dogs are treated. Dogs are essentially sociable animals—they are our companions and they suffer when they are left alone for extended periods of time and do not get the care and companionship they need. They can develop bad behaviors, such as excessive barking and aggression. Confinement, especially solitary confinement, is a form of abuse, as is chaining dogs to a fence or a stake in the ground, limiting their movement and contact with others. Such treatment very often produces hostile behavior toward humans.

In the movie, the dog in the backyard needs the companionship and attention of the girl who is feeding him, but she is too busy talking on her cell phone to think of playing with him. He is very lonely. On the other hand, the dog living inside the family home has the companionship of his caregiver—the boy who is playing with him—and he receives lots of attention. Dogs also need to get exercise, which keep them happy and healthy. The dog living inside the family home gets much more exercise than the one who is kept chained outside.

  • 2. Describe a day in the life of a happy dog: if you were a dog, how would you want your humans to treat you?

A happy dog would never experience neglect. He would receive attention from his human caregivers and might have another dog for a companion. He would never be lonely.

A happy dog would have shelter and always have a warm and safe place to spend the night. He would get exercise and sustenance—food and water—regularly. He would receive obedience training so that he will be likeable to his human family—for example, he would learn to obey commands and not to jump on people.

Note: The video In the Company of Dogs (also referenced in Suggested Online Resources) shows students how to best care for dogs, including providing exercise and veterinary care.

  • 3. If you have a pet, tell us how your pet lets you know if he or she needs something from you?

In the movie, the two dogs clearly show their feelings. The sad dog who is chained in the backyard keeps his ears and head down. This is a sign that he is not feeling happy. A happy dog wags his tail and looks alert.

Note: Dogs’ body language is somewhat more complex than the explanation given above. Children are very interested in learning how dogs communicate with people and other dogs. Activity 3 is dedicated to teaching students about the ways in which dogs convey their feelings through body language and how body language can give us cues about how best to behave around dogs.

A happy cat purrs and leans on her caregiver’s leg or rolls on her back to tell you she is happy. An unhappy cat may put her ears back and growl, or she may hide somewhere in the house (for example, under the bed) for long periods. She may do this too if she doesn’t feel well.

Note: The body language of cats is more complex than the examples provided above. Children are very interested in learning how cats communicate with people and with other cats. Activity 6 is dedicated to teaching students about the ways in which cats convey their feelings through body language and how body language can give us cues about how best to behave around cats.

Rabbits are also popular animal companions, and your students may have one or more rabbits in their home as animal companions. Rabbits’ physical actions give us clues as to how they are feeling. They show they are happy by rolling on their back or their side, sometimes closing their eyes. They might also shake their ears and then give a little hop or jump. Unhappy or frightened rabbits might thump their back leg on the ground and run away or turn away from you and flick their back legs out. Rabbits who are penned in small cages are also unhappy because they need more space.

  • 4. What does a dog, cat, rabbit, or other kind of pet need in order to be healthy and happy? What do you need in order to be happy? Do you and your pet have the same needs?

Responses can include: food and water (sustenance), shelter from bad weather, a safe and nice place to eat and sleep; and attention and physical care. Your students will recognize these conditions as essential for a happy home for themselves, as well.

Note: This is a good juncture to use the reading “What Do Dogs Want?” to teach students about the special needs of our canine companion animals. Activity 4 explores use of this reading and its accompanying worksheet “Questions—What Do Dogs Want?”

  • 5. What about other kinds of pets such as hamsters, birds, or fish? What do these pets need in order to be happy? Do you think hamsters feel happy or sad? What about birds and about fish?

In the movie, the sad dog who is chained in the backyard keeps his ears and head down. This is a sign that he is not happy. A happy dog wags his tail and looks alert.

Responses should be similar to those for Question 4: food and water (sustenance), shelter from bad weather, a safe and nice place to live and sleep; and attention and physical care.

Encourage your students who have hamsters and birds to share these pets’ needs and behaviors with the rest of the class. Hamsters and birds show that they are sick or unhappy by remaining motionless (when not sleeping), hiding, or refusing to eat. Ask your students to describe what they do to help these pets.

Ask your students who have fish to tell the class how they know when their fish are not well or appear to be unhappy. Ask them to describe what they do to help keep their fish healthy.

Note: Activity 7 gives students the opportunity to learn about less common household pets such as rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, birds, and fish. The books about pet care that we recommend in Suggested Books provide a wealth of information for students working on this activity.

  • 6. Why would an owner keep a dog chained up in the yard? Are people who keep dogs tied up bad people? Do they practice animal cruelty? Why or why not?

Possible responses are: the dog is bad-tempered; the dog makes a mess in the house; or the owner is a bad person or simply someone who is not knowledgeable about the kind of treatment that is best for a dog.

Open the discussion to include examples and definitions of cruelty toward pets and other domesticated animals, that is, animal cruelty. Possible responses might include: depriving an animal of basic care—food, water, and a safe place to live—and veterinary treatment; physically harming an animal; and not providing the animal with safe opportunities for exercise. Ask your students what they can do if they witness instances of animal abuse. Stress that, for their own safety, students should not directly confront someone they believe is practicing cruelty to animals. Rather, they should inform their parents or teachers about the instance(s) of cruelty or contact their local animal shelter for advice. Provide your students with the contact number and/or Web site for their local animal shelter. Ask your students what they think animal control officers do in cases of possible animal cruelty (issue warnings or citations, remove the animal to a safe place).

Ask your students to describe the humane treatment of pet animals. Possible responses might include: giving a pet a good indoor home; providing a good diet and around the clock access to water; taking the pet to the veterinarian for routine care (yearly examinations, vaccinations) and treatment when sick; providing the pet with safe opportunities for exercise; and showing the pet that he is loved and cared for. Explain that “humane” means “having sympathy or consideration for others.” Humane treatment of animals assumes that we respect animals and do whatever we can to keep them safe and free from harm, and humane treatment of animals extends to all animals such as wildlife and farm and work animals, not only our pets.

Note: The worksheet “What’s Humane?” focuses on words from the Mow Wow Glossary to reinforce the concept of humane treatment vs. cruelty toward animals. Activity 8 encourages the students to meet with local animal control officers and engage them in a discussion about their job duties and, specifically, what the officers do to prevent animal cruelty.

  • 7. What kinds of pets live indoors all the time? Why is it best to keep a pet indoors? Do some pets live outdoors? Which ones?

Many more people are keeping their pets indoors because animals are safer inside the house, away from predatory wildlife, automobiles and other kinds of traffic, or bad-intentioned people. Birds can be kept outside temporarily in cages that allow them to move about freely. They should not be kept outside in cold or otherwise bad weather or in areas where other animals such as cats or dogs can frighten them. Animals kept indoors are safe from accidents caused by cars or other vehicles. If people allow their pet cats and dogs to go outside, they should be in a yard that is fenced in and impossible to escape from. If they go outside the yard or the yard is not fenced in, they need to be on a leash or harness with their person present. Such measures prevent these pets from escaping.

More and more people consider their pets as members of the family. Types of pets living indoors include rabbits, cats, dogs, guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, mice, rats, fish, snakes, lizards (geckos, iguanas, and similar reptiles), and birds (parakeets, parrots, cockatiels, canaries, and finches).

Some domestic farm animals sometimes also considered pets live a good part of their life outdoors. These animals include horses, ponies, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, geese, and chickens. Ask your students if they themselves have one or more of these animals as pets or know someone who does. Ask them to describe how best to care for these animals. Possible answers include: provide a proper diet, regularly scheduled veterinary care, and adequate space for exercise; and show them kindness and love. Ask your students what kind of diet would be good for each of these animals.

  • 8. Why do we give our pets names? Why do we often invent names for pets instead of giving them ordinary human names?
  • When people recognize animals as individuals, companions, and friends, it becomes natural to give them a name. It is really fun to choose a name for a new animal friend! Ask your students about their pets’ names. Why did they choose these names? Do the names reflect characteristics of the specific pets? Are they invented names or ordinary human names? Do their pets respond to their names? How?

    Note: Activity 8 gives the students the opportunity to explore favorite as well as unusual pet names.

  • 9. Why do we enjoy having pets?

Animals provide companionship. They do not argue with us or provide unpleasant interactions. They are loving beings and often seem to show appreciation for their care. It has been said that animals, when treated humanely, give their people unconditional love. Many people find safety and happiness in their friendships with their companion animals. Studies have shown that, in general, people who enjoy the company of pets suffer less from ailments such as anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure—pets truly provide a comforting presence.

Ask your students how it feels to have their pet give them a kiss, as we refer to a nice lick of the tongue from a dog or a cat, or a friendly nibble. Ask the students to describe other ways in which their pets show them love or appreciation.

Note: The readings about dogs and cats’ body language are good references to teach your students the ways in which their pets show them love or appreciation and the ways in which they communicate other feelings. Click here for a reading about dogs’ body language, and here for a reading about cats’ body language.

  • 10. What is a domesticated (or domestic) animal?

Domesticated animals depend on people for their care. Farm animals and pets, such as dogs, cats, and horses, are examples of animals who have been domesticated. Ask your students if they can think of other examples of domesticated animals. Possible answers for pets include: rats, mice, reptiles, fish, and rabbits. Possible answers for farm animals include: ponies, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, ducks, geese, and chickens.

Explain to your students that wild animals sometimes act tame, but they are not domesticated animals and may become wild again. Increasingly, there are laws against keeping wild animals as pets. Ask your students why they think such laws were enacted. Reinforce the concept that the laws protect both people and wild animals—the laws were enacted to keep people safe and to ensure that the needs of wild animals are met when they live in habitats that best support those needs.

  • 11. Are all domesticated animals pets? What about animals like guide dogs for the blind or watchdogs? Why might someone keep a cat besides just as a pet? Such animals are called “working animals.” What does a working dog or cat need? Do working dogs and cats have the same needs as pets?

Tell your students that some companion animals can be working, or service, animals. Ask them if they have ever met or been in contact with a service animal. Do your students know someone who has a service animal? Your students might tell you that they know someone who has a medical alert dog or a seeing-eye dog or mobility assistance dog who helps people with disabilities. Tell your students that service animals need to be certified and ask them what service animals do. Possible responses might be: they care for their people; they warn their people if they are going to be sick; they help blind people; they do jobs in the home. How are they different from pets? Students might tell you that these animals have jobs to perform. How are they the same? One possible answer: they are domesticated animals who live with people and show them love and care—they are loving. Ask your students if they think service animals have the same needs as pets. Tell them that service animals have the same needs as pets—regularly scheduled veterinary care, a good diet, exercise, and humane treatment.

Working animals provide a service to people. Working dogs such as sheepdogs or other kinds of herding dogs provide important services on farms and ranches. Ask your students if they know about other kinds of working dogs. Possible answers include: police dogs in K-9 units; resident dogs at fire stations; search and rescue dogs; conservation detection dogs; guide dogs for the blind; service dogs who aid handicapped people; medical alert dogs who can recognize when their person is in pain or otherwise need medical care; therapy dogs who visit hospitals; emotional support animals who live in the home. Service dogs have the same physical and emotional needs as pets. However, service dogs who aid the handicapped are not pets—we should not pet, talk to, or in any way distract or bother a working service dog. Ask your students how they might recognize a service dog—they often wear special harnesses or vests with patches identifying them as service, guide, or medical alert dogs.

Working cats are found on farms and ranches. Sometimes, these are cats who are only partially tame or not tame at all. Many rescue groups relocate community cats who are not tame to safe working situations. Other working cats live in stores or warehouses. Working cats have the same physical needs as pets—a good diet, exercise, and veterinary care. As working cats become tamer, they often show the same emotional needs as pet cats, and they will let people know this. Working cats also have a long history of life aboard ships, where they keep the rodent (rats and mice) population under control and provide companionship to sailors and other workers.

Therapy animals visit people in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and libraries, spending spend time with people who pet and play with them. Almost any domesticated animal can be a therapy animal. Examples include dogs, cats, horses, rabbits, birds, and rats. Ask your students if they can think of any other examples.

Emotional support animals are pets who have had no special training. Their sole purpose is to provide comfort or emotional support to a person. Emotional support dogs are not considered service dogs. Ask your students in what ways they believe these animals provide emotional support and comfort to their people.

Note: The reading “Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals—Important Differences” provides students with basic definitions and important differences among these kinds of working animals. Activity 9 gives students the opportunity to meet people who train service and therapy dogs and learn about how the dogs are trained as well as ask questions.

  • 12. In other countries and other cultures, do people feel the same way as we do in the United States about their pets and their working animals? What may be some differences?

Tell your students that there are many factors that determine how people feel about animals, and feelings are different in other cultures. Ask your students if they are aware of these differences in feelings and to provide examples. Students’ examples may include: people I know think it’s important for children to see the birth of puppies or kittens; some people are too poor to provide food and care for their animals; some people consider animals “dirty.” Explain that people’s life circumstances might be different from ours, and these circumstances—poverty, lack of education, religious beliefs—will affect how they feel about and act toward animals. Reinforce for your students that cruelty to others—both animals and people—under any circumstance is considered morally wrong.

Note: The reading “Attitudes Toward Pets in Other Cultures,” featured in Activity 11, examines in detail the issues of cultural differences and humane treatment of animals. You can use the reading as a basis for discussion.

In addition, Activity 12 provides another opportunity for students to examine the issue of cultural concerns, in this case, opposing views on the practice of de-clawing cats.

Closing Poems

Companion animals, what they might be thinking about, and their interactions with their humans are frequent themes in poetry. Your students might enjoy reading or listening to these poems about a dog, two cats, and a rescued rabbit. After each poem is read, ask your students to write or talk about their reactions and their feelings.

dog poem

You can take it away, as far as I'm concerned—I'd rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I'm not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play, the ability to impart warmth, elation . . .

Howard Moss

If Feeling Isn’t In It

Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can’t reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they’re dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don’t try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I’ve seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn’t come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she’s gone
and I’m tied to a post surrounded by people
who don’t look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It’s almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

John Brem (Published by the Poetry Foundation)


cat mouse

This Old Cat

I’m getting on in years,

My coat is turning grey.
My eyes have lost their luster,
my hearing’s just okay.

I spend my whole day dreaming
of conquests in my past,
lying near a sunny window.
Waiting for its warm repast.
I remember our first visit,
I was coming to you free,
hoping you would take me in
and keep me company.
I wasn’t young or handsome,
two years I’d roamed the street.

There were scars upon my face,
I hobbled on my feet.
I could sense your disappointment
as I left my prison cage.
Oh, I hoped you would accept me
and look beyond my age.
You took me out of pity,
I accepted without shame.
Then you grew to love me,
and I admit the same.
I have shared with you your laughter,
You have wet my fur with tears.
We’ve come to know each other

Throughout these many years.
Just one more hug this morning
Before you drive away,
And know I’ll think about you

Throughout your busy day.
The time we’ve left together

Is a treasured time at that.
My heart is yours forever.
I promise. . . This Old Cat.



bunny poem

Note: The author has recorded “Cat Rap.” You can play it for your students by clicking here.


Lying on the sofa
all curled up and meek
but in my furry-fuzzy head
there’s a rapping beat.
Gonna rap while I’m napping
and looking sweet
gonna rap while I’m padding
on the balls of my feet

Gonna rap on my head
gonna rap on my tail
gonna rap on my
you know where.
So wave your paws in the air
like you just don’t care
with nine lives to spare
gimme five right here.

Well, they say that we cats
are killed by curiosity,
but does this moggie* mind?
No, I’ve got suavity.
When I get to heaven
Gonna rap with Macavity*
Gonna find his hidden paw
And clear up that mystery.

Nap it up
Scratch it up
The knack is free
Fur it up
Purr it up
Yes that’s me.

The meanest cat-rapper you’ve ever seen.
Number one of the street-sound galaxy.

Grace Nichols (from Everybody Got a Gift)

*moggie—in British English, a mixed-breed cat

*Macavity—a famous cat from T. S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats. Here’s what the poem about Macavity says:

Macavity’s a Mystery Cat: he’s called the Hidden Paw -
For he’s the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He’s the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad’s despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime – Macavity’s not there!

And they say that all the Cats whose wicked deeds are widely known
(I might mention Mungojerrie, I might mention Griddlebone)
Are nothing more than agents for the Cat who all the time
Just controls their operations: the Napoleon of Crime!


bunny poem

Rabbit Rescue Poem

I used to be a lonely rabbit,
just looking for a home.
I simply had no place to go,
no one to call my own.

I wandered through the streets and fields,
in rain in heat and snow.
I ate what ever I could find,
I was always on the go.

My skin would itch, my feet were sore,
my body ached with pain.
And no one stopped to give a pat
or a gently say my name.

I never saw a loving glance,
I was always on the run.
For people thought that hurting me
was really lots of fun.

And then one day I heard a voice
so gentle, kind and sweet,
And arms so soft reached down to me
and took me off my feet.

“No one again will hurt you”
was whispered in my ear.
“You’ll have a home to call your own
where you will know no fear.

You will be dry, you will be warm,
you’ll have enough to eat
And rest assured that when you sleep,
your dreams will all be sweet.”

I was afraid I must admit,
I’ve lived so long in fear.
I can’t remember when I let
a human come so near.

And as she tended to my wounds
and cleaned and brushed my fur
she told me ’bout the rescue group
and what it meant to her.

She said, “We are a circle,
a line that never ends.
and in the center there is you
protected by new friends.

And all around you are the ones
who'll keep you safe and sound,
who will share their loving home with you
until a forever one can be found.

We will do all we can
by searching near and far,
to find the perfect home for you,
where you can be a star.”

She said, “There is a family,
that’s waiting patiently,
and pretty soon we’ll find them,
just you wait and see.

And then they’ll join our circle,
they’ll help to make it grow,
so there’ll be room for more like you,
who have no place to go.”

I waited very patiently,
the days, they came and went.
Today’s the day, I would hope,
my family will be sent.

Then just when I began to think
it wasn’t meant to be,
there were people standing there
just gazing down at me.

I knew them in a heartbeat
I could tell they felt it too.
They said, “We have been searching for
a special bun like you.”

Now every night I say a prayer
to all the Gods that be.
Thank you for the life I live
and all you’ve given me.

But most of all protect the bunnies
in the pound and on the street.
And send a Rabbit Rescue Person
to lift them off their feet.

Thank you to everyone who helps to make this circle bigger each day.



  • 1. Have your students create posters that illustrate the themes “Animals deserve to be happy” and “No act of kindness is ever too small to matter.” Ask your students to think of other poster themes about animals that they can illustrate. Then create an art gallery of posters about humane themes in your classroom or in a public area at your school.
  • 2. Ask students whose families have pets to bring in snapshots of their pets. Have the entire class group the photographs according to the kind of pet. Create posters by arranging the snapshots with the pets’ names written below.
  • Note: Some students might want to know just how dogs do see, compared to the way we humans see. Ask these students to do research about the way dogs see and then include the way dogs see colors in their drawings, or share the following links with the students.

    Through a Dog’s Eyes by Jon Bastian

    Vision – How Do Dogs See by Dr. Michael Richards

  • 3. Tell your students that dogs, like people, express their feelings through body language. Ask the students to read the handout “What Dog Body Language Is Saying” and, if possible, have the class watch the video In the Company of Dogs, which teaches young people how to observe dogs’ body language and interact appropriately with their dogs, as well as strays and dogs belonging to other people. As a review, your students can complete the worksheet “Dog Body Language and Safety Around Dogs.”
  • 4. Read the handout “What Do Dogs Want?” aloud to your students, or if they have the requisite skills, have them read the handout for homework. Then ask them to answer the questions on the accompanying worksheet, “Questions—What Do Dogs Want?”
  • Note: The worksheet is intended in part as a tool for assessing reading comprehension.

  • 5. Ask your students if they are aware of any particular dog breeds that are considered undesirable or targeted by “breed-specific legislation” (BSL) forbidding ownership of those breeds. Pit bulls are among those breeds. Read all or parts of the article “Pit Bulls: Reclaiming America’s Dog” to your students, or if they have the skills to do so, ask them to read the article on their own.

    For homework, you may have your students do research on the Internet about pit bulls and breed-specific legislation. The next day, ask your students to form small groups to discuss the pros and cons of pit bulls as pets. Call on the groups to present the main points of their discussion for the entire class and then summarize the students’ observations on the board.
  • Note: Alistair Thompson, the author of “Pit Bulls: Reclaiming America’s Dog,” has stated that cropping the dogs’ ears, which he cites as a strategy used by dog fighters to prevent excessive bleeding, may not be used for that purpose.

  • 6. Ask your students if they have cats as pets. Do they understand what their cat is telling them through his special body language—tail, eyes, ears, and whiskers? Distribute or read all or parts of “Cat Talk: A Guide to Cat Body Language.” Recommend that students watch the short video Cat Body Language, or watch the video together as a class. The Web site 10 Signs Your Kitty Actually Loves You describes how a friendly cat interacts with her person. The worksheet “Cat Body Language and Safety Around Cats” provides a review for the students.
  • 7. Have your students do research at the library or online about other kinds of pets, such as rabbits, they have or would like to adopt. Tell them to use the worksheet, “About Your Pet,” to provide information about their pets—the kind of special care their pets need (including food and veterinary care) and the ways in which these pets show that they are happy/healthy or sad/sick.
  • Note: The sections for recommended books, Web sites, and videos at the end of this lesson provide areas of exploration for your students to carry out this activity. Of particular interest might be the two Web sites about rabbits listed under Suggested Online Resources.

  • 8. Pets’ names can tell us quite a bit about their personalities. Ask your students to work in small groups to research the most popular or unusual pets’ names—dogs and cats—and to make a short list of the 10 most popular or unusual names. Have them bring their results to class for a short discussion.
  • 9. Invite a local representative of a training program for service or therapy animals to visit the classroom. Before the class visit, students can read the article “Service Dogs, Therapy Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals—Important Differences,” or you can read parts of the article to the class. Ask your students to discuss what they have learned in small groups. Then have each group write a list of from 5 to 10 questions they would like to ask the visitor.
  • 10. Most local communities in the United States depend on animal control officers to intervene in instances of cruelty toward animals. Ask your students if they know where their local animal control officers are based. Make sure you give the students that information.

    Then schedule a visit to the local animal shelter for a meeting with one or more animal control officers or arrange for a local animal control officer to visit your class. Ask the animal control officer(s) to speak about the law regarding animal cruelty and the steps animal control officers can take to help animals in cases of cruelty. Have your students draw up a list of questions to ask the animal control officer(s) about response to complaints about cruelty toward animals as well as other important jobs animal control officers do.
  • 11. Your students are already aware that other cultures often have ideas that are different from ours regarding the treatment of their pets. Ask your students to read “Attitudes Toward Pets in Other Cultures.” Use the reading as a basis for discussion in class, drawing attention to individual students’ real-life experiences and eliciting opinions about these experiences.
  • 12. In our own culture certain treatments of animals are frowned upon as inhumane by a significant number of pet owners and a growing number of veterinarians. One of these is the de-clawing of cats. Ask your students what they think about this practice. Suggest that they view the video The Paw Project and make a list of at least five arguments against de-clawing cats. Have the students who watched the video discuss its contents in class.
  • 13. In our society outdated superstitions and misconceptions continue to dictate people’s choices of pets. People have unfairly stereotyped black animals, especially black cats, and this stereotype has led to many unnecessary deaths in shelters. Ask your students what they think about this situation. Suggest that they read the article “Enthralling, Exemplary, Elegant Ebony Cats” and discuss the article’s content in small groups. To follow up on their discussion, the groups can make a list of negative qualities of black cats furthered in some superstitions and another list of positive qualities espoused by other superstitions. Ask the students to consider this question: What is the reality about black cats?
  • 14. Encourage your students to be “Pet Painters.” Have your students paint pictures of dogs who are waiting for adoption at your local shelter. If possible, recruit a volunteer at your local shelter to take photographs for you to use. If your students do not have access to such photographs, they can look at photographs of dogs posted online by local animal shelters.

    After your students have painted a picture of a dog up for adoption, they can jot down some thoughts or write a short essay from the dog’s point of view. To facilitate this, ask your students to imagine that the dog is leaving the shelter with his new family and going to his new home. The following questions are prompts for you to use to help your students complete the writing exercise:

    What can my new family and I learn from each other?
    Can you describe my new family and my new home?
    What will I see on our walks together?
    Can you tell me about a person or another pet I might meet in the neighborhood?
    What will be my new name and why did you choose that name?
    What is an idea you have to help protect dogs from being mistreated?
    What do you believe that all dogs need to have a happy life?

Spelling, Vocabulary, and Writing

Suggested vocabulary words can be found in the Mow Wow Glossary. These words can be used to help your students understand the lesson but are not necessarily tailored for spelling practice. Each word can be written on a flashcard and discussed as a class.

Where appropriate for the age and grade level of your students, do a spelling and writing exercise with the Mow Wow glossary words below and other words used throughout the lesson. This exercise builds vocabulary as well as spelling and writing skills for your ELLs (English-language learners) and allows all students to practice spelling the glossary words illustrating the themes of their pets’ needs and humane vs. inhumane treatment of animals.

Click here to download a worksheet in which your students can categorize words and provide definitions after reviewing these words in class in the contextualized discussion questions.

More advanced students could answer in-depth questions based on the Mow Wow movie and the classroom discussion following the movie.

Click here to download a student worksheet containing questions about “Animals Have Feelings Too.”

Mow Wow Glossary

abuse – improper treatment; physical mistreatment.

aggression – an attack made without reasonable cause; the practice of making attacks; hostile or destructive behavior.

attention – careful listening or watching; an act of kindness, care, or courtesy.

behavior – the way in one conducts himself; anything that a living being does that involves action and response to stimulation.

caregiver – a person who is responsible for the care of a child or animal.

companion – one who spends time with another or others; friend.

confinement – the act of confining, restriction enclosure; imprisonment

cruelty – a cruel action or comment; the state or characteristic of being cruel.

disability – the condition or state of incapacity, especially as caused by an injury, congenital defect, illness, or the like; that which causes incapacity; handicap.

emotion – a strong feeling such as joy, hatred, sorrow, or fear; a state or a condition that is marked by such a feeling or response.

essential – necessary, basic, fundamental.

harm – injury or hurt; wrong or evil, abuse.

hostile – feeling or showing dislike, ill will, or antagonism; unfriendly.

humane – showing kindness or mercy.

inhumane – showing no kindness or mercy.

kindness – the quality or state of being kind.

loving – feeling or showing love; affectionate.

mobility – the quality of moving or being moved easily from place to place, or of having ease and flexibility of motion.

neglect – (noun) an act, instance, or result of failing to take proper care of someone or something; an act, instance or result of paying little or no attention to someone or something.

neglect – (verb) to fail to take proper care of someone or something; to pay little or no attention to someone or something.

obedience – the act, instance, or practice of paying attention or following commands.

physical – of or relating to the body.

proper – correct for a certain purpose, appropriate; suitable because of an essential nature or condition.

sustenance – nourishment that maintains life, food; supplying with the necessities of life.

unconditional – not having conditions or limits, unlimited or absolute; unqualified

Suggested Books

Guinea Pig, Angela Royston

Hamsters, Jennifer Blizen Gillis

Turtles, Jennifer Blizen Gillis

Bunnicula, A Rabbit Tale of Mystery, Deborah and James Howe

Note: The above books are also available in Spanish-language editions.

Suggested Videos

Through a Dog’s Eyes
Click here to purchase or rent the video.

In the Company of Dogs

The Paw Project
Click here to receive a copy of the video or to rent the video.

Cat Body Language

Suggested Online Resources

Do’s and Don’ts Around Dogs:

10 Signs Your Kitty Actually Loves You:

Green Iguana Society Kids’ Club:

How to Care for a Rabbit:

Body Language of Rabbits:

Pit Bulls: Reclaiming America’s Dog:

Therapy Dogs, Inc., Sharing Smiles and Joy

Assistance Dogs International

Enthralling, Exemplary, Elegant Ebony Cats


Mow Wow Animals was created by Carole Hyde, with the generous assistance of the Palo Alto Humane Society.