Tuesday, August 13, 2013

How Do I Deal With: Kids Who Hurt Pets

Hi Friends,

We have talked a lot about kids and pets here on FPR, and we have mentioned many times about how necessary it is to supervise foster kids with pets during pet therapy or as you are just getting to know your "new" kids, as many times abused or traumatized children will act out, or children with RAD or attachment disorders may need coaching when interacting with animals.   Yes, we have kind of danced around the topic, but we aren't dancing anymore.

We recently got an email from a friend and reader asking a very straightforward question, and although we have a lot of information on the topic, we didn't have a straight-enough answer for her.  We thought we should go ahead and talk about the topic of kids who hurt or abuse pets or animals and what you should do about it.  (imagine us shifting uncomfortably in our chair.)

First, the question from our reader:

Q:  Recently our little guy has really been picking on our dog. He's getting worse and worse little by little. We have a no touching animals rule in the house, but he disregards that rule despite the consequences. Any ideas?  [ the child has shown evidence of RAD or an attachment disorder.]

A: FPR:   This is basically what is happening:  RAD kids don't know how to show love, and so when they try to show the dog affection, they try to control the dog (which is the only way the child knows how to deal with people and animals..thru control) and so eventually the dog revolts against it and struggles against it, so the child gets rough.  Now the relationship between pet and child is damaged.

 So, you have to show the child how to rebuild the relationship with the dog.  Give him treats to give the dog and teach him how to interact properly with the dog.   Also, only supervised play with the dog until you are sure that the child has learned how to interact with the animal.

The no- touching the animals rule isn't going to work. You have to spend time teaching them how to play with the dog and have only supervised time with the animalsA No touching rule is impossible, you might have a "no picking up rule," "no hitting the dog rule" is okay, but you have to take control of the dog and keep them separate.

 Let me know how it goes and keep up with it even if you think that they have learned it...
sometimes they can trick you and revert to the bad behavior. 

Now, my advice comes from my own experience working with RAD kids and my families own pets.  I have had the same issues with kids being too rough with pets, mistreating them, and I have cameras in my house, I feel like I supervise the kids as well as anyone can.  And I lost a pet. A small breed dog under unfortunate circumstances- most likely from one of the kids hugging the struggling dog too roughly.   It was devastating.  The RAD child then acted as if nothing bad had happened. He had to learn to allow others in the house to grieve the loss of the pet, I had to accept it, and counsel the child through the event, to try to discover what had happened, without allowing my own personal feelings to come out, or to take them out on the child, ... it was terribly, terribly difficult.

In the end, I guess it helped build trust between this boy and myself. He was sure he'd be kicked out of the house for the incident, and I didn't kick him out.  I tried to get to the bottom of the situation, and we continued to work on his skills with pets, and worked and worked on it.  He has come a long way and I do believe he will be a success story yet.  Time will tell.

Here are some other resources for you. Some very interesting articles here I encourage you to read if you are dealing with this problem. 


Children Who are Cruel to Animals: When to Worry

Children Abusing Animals

 Cruelty to animals a sign that heeds attention

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  1. "no touching animals rule in the house"

    This is possibly the strangest rule I've ever heard. I'd be curious why this rule would exist because on its face it seems absurd to say people in the house can't pet the dog, especially children.

    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for commenting. Well, we agree, a rule like this probably doesnt work, and perhaps our reader didnt explain it fully, which is most likely the case. A rule like this, attempting to structure or control interaction with house pets would be understandable in a household with kids who are rough with pets, or need training to deal with pets.

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