Pets in the Environment
- Identify wastes created by pets(feces, packaging for pet foods and pet products) and environmentally acceptable options for disposal.
- Understand how pets and wildlife can interact in ways harmful to wildlife and how this can be prevented.
- Collect and analyze information about the environmental impacts of pets.
Many students are unaware that irresponsible pet ownership can have significant environmental impacts.
Curriculum Connection: Alberta Education Program of Studies
Grade 4: Waste and our World
- Identify plant and animal wastes, and describe how they are recycled in nature.
- Identify and classify wastes that result from human activity.
- Describe alternative methods of disposal, and identify possible advantages and disadvantages of each.
- Distinguish between wastes that are readily biodegradable and those that are not.
- Compare different kinds of packaging, and infer the relative advantages and disadvantages of that packaging. In evaluating different forms of packaging, students should demonstrate the ability to consider a consumer perspective as well as an environmental perspective.
- Identify methods of waste disposal currently used within the local community.
- Identify kinds of wastes that may be toxic to people and to the environment.
- Identify alternative materials and processes that may decrease the amount of waste produced; e.g., reducing wastage of food, using both sides of a sheet of paper.
- Identify ways in which materials can be reused or recycled, including examples of things that the student has done.
- Develop a flow chart for a consumer product that indicates the source materials, final product, its use and method of disposal.
- Identify actions that individuals and groups can take to minimize the production of wastes, to recycle or reuse wastes and to ensure the safe handling and disposal of wastes.
- Develop and implement a plan to reduce waste, and monitor what happens over a period of time.
Grade 7: Interactions and Ecosystems
- Demonstrate sensitivity and responsibility in pursuing a balance between the needs of humans and a sustainable environment.
- Identify examples of human impacts on ecosystems, and investigate and analyze the link between these impacts and the human wants and needs that give rise to them..
- Analyze personal and public decisions that involve consideration of environmental impacts, and identify needs for scientific knowledge that can inform those decisions.
- Identify intended and unintended consequences of human activities within local and global environments.
- Identify science related issues (e.g.,identify a specific issue regarding human impacts on environments) .
- Identify questions to investigate arising from practical problem sand issues.
- State a prediction and a hypothesis based on background information or an observed pattern of events.
- Select appropriate methods and tools for collecting data and information
- Research information relevant to a given problem or issue
- Select and integrate information from various print and electronic sources or from several parts of the same source
Pets and the products they use can be a source of waste with potentially negative environmental impacts. Two topics that could be examined in Grade 4 Science are described below.
How much waste do you think a typical dog produces in one year? Over a 10 year lifetime a typical dog can produce a half a tonne of feces In the USA the total amount of dog feces is estimated to be 10 million tonnnes per year – so Canada might have about 1 million tonnes.
Is this a biodegradable waste? What about the plastic collection bags? Are there biodegradable bags? Could pet waste be harmful to people? How? How is dog waste in a city different from feces produced by wild animals in the prairies or woods near us?
Students could research these problems and work on simple solutions.
Have students survey pet owners about how they handle their pet’s waste products,
Students could make a poster to encourage pet owners to be responsible about pet waste.
Have each student investigate a popular cat or dog toy and figure out how far this toy travelled to get to the store? How much packaging is there?
Students could design and make a cat or dog toy from recycled materials.
Environmentally responsible pet ownership means minimising the negative impacts of pets on the planet. This topic lends itself to independent or small group investigation of human impacts on the environment. Because so many families own pets, investigation of this topic can lead to real changes in behaviour that will help our environment.
Possible research targets include:
- How much impact do outdoor cats have on songbird populations? There is a lot of information on both sides of this issue – concern about songbird populations, claims that feral cats are scapegoats and the real problem is habitat destruction. Possible solutions to examine: spay/neuter of pets to minimise feral cat populations, keeping pet cats indoors(how will this also help your cat?), working to save songbird habitat.
- How can pet dogs harm wildlife? What types of wildlife are susceptible to harassment by dogs? Are dogs natural predators? Can dogs themselves be at risk from wildlife? How could problems be prevented?
- How much impact do dog feces have on water quality? Is this a significant problem for water quality? What can be done about it? (e.g. Calgary’s decision to limit dog access in areas around Glenmore reservoir) How well do “poop and scoop” laws work? Is the disposal of many plastic bags then a problem? Have a look at the Cochrane off leash area to see how well this problem is handled. (e.g. volunteers who leave plastic bags there, amount of uncollected feces on the ground). Investigate new options for composting dog waste.
- Analyse a pet product like kitty litter or pet food or pet cleaning products. What different types are available and what is their comparative environmental impact? Consider the materials used to produce the product, the amount of packaging and the disposal of the final product.
- Investigate the kinds of toys pets love and how much materials and packaging are used for each. How long do they last? Design some home made alternatives using recycled materials.
- Is barking a form of noise pollution? How does the sound level compare in decibels to other noises common in towns and cities? Investigate related bylaws and humane methods to prevent barking.
- How important is regular pet vaccination to avoid spreading disease? What kinds of disease are we concerned about? How could these impact populations of wild animals? Interview a vet of animal health technician.
- Look into the issue of pet overpopulation. Is it environmentally responsible to allow your cat or dog to reproduce when there are already so many stray dogs and cats at shelters? Estimate how many pups or kittens one mother can be produced in a few years by one pair. What are some of the impacts of all those animals on our environment? (See the Lesson Plan Ideas Unit on Pet Math.)
Some useful background information is available:
- Wildlife & Your Pet - Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation
- Eco-friendly Pets - an article from an Australian newspaper on some of the ways pet owners in that country are trying to be more environmentally responsible. (Grade 7 reading level)
- The Environmental Impact of Pets and The Environmental Impact of Pets Part 2 - What you can do - newspaper articles from San Francisco on ways in which pet ownership can negatively affect the environment and what we can do. (Grade 7 reading level)
- 8 Eco Tips That Every Pet Lover Must Know - Tip list from Environment Canada. (Grade 9 reading level)
- Top Green Pet Tips - from Planet Green (Discovery Channel) (Grade 8 reading level)
- Are You an Environmentally Friendly Pet Owner? Canadian Federation of Humane Societies list of pointers (Grade 7 reading level)