Having pets at home provides various social, health, and educational benefits to children. The question of how keeping pets at home affects the attitudes of children toward wild animals still has not been answered, due to various methodological issues, such as ignorance of some attitude dimensions and/or questionnaires that include items focused on very different animals. We conducted three independent research surveys (using three independent samples) of Slovakian primary school children aged 10 to 15 years (n=1297). These surveys focused on the effects of keeping pets on the attitudes of children towards, and knowledge of, three unpopular animals in Slovakia. These animals were pests (potato beetle) (Study 1), predators (wolf) (Study 2), and those that pose a threat of disease to humans (mouse) (Study 3). Each survey also included a popular animal (ladybird beetle, rabbit, and squirrel, respectively), which served as a "control"; these were compared by pair-wise statistics. Results consistently showed that children had better knowledge of, but less favorable attitudes towards, unpopular animals compared with popular ones. Having pets at home was associated with more positive attitudes to, and better knowledge of, both popular and unpopular animals. Girls were less favorably inclined than boys to animals that may pose a threat, danger, or disease to them. Implications for humane education are discussed, especially in terms of keeping pets, the link between knowledge and attitudes, and children's understanding of ecological adaptations.
|Author Address||Department of Biology, Faculty of Education, Trnava University, Priemyselna 4, PO Box 9, 918 43 Trnava, Slovakia.pavol.prokop@savba@sk|
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