Top Five Myths About Animals and Kids

1% of the sales of Smile books are donated to animal welfare. Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World contains an important, educational "Help Animals" section in the chapter on becoming an effective volunteer ("Be a Rock Star", Chapter 7). The number one cause kids care about is animals. Many animals needlessly suffer and live miserable lives due to myths and misconceptions. We want to set the record straight about educating kids about animals, and help you and your kids help animals. Thank you for your support!


MYTH 1. Zoos Educate Children About Animals
TRUTH: It's been proven that zoos don't educate children or turn them into conservationists. In fact, zoos teach kids that it's okay to keep animals in cages.

"Zoos neither educate nor empower children, newly published research suggests"
"5 Things We Need to Stop Telling Ourselves About Zoos".

Many animals are bored out of their minds in zoos with virtually nothing to do. Learn more in the articles below.
"Even the Gorillas and Bears in Our Zoos Are Hooked on Prozac" and "Zoo Photos Capture Caged Animals’ Melancholy" in WIRED Magazine.
"Zoos Drive Animals Crazy" in SLATE Magazine.
"Don't Ever Visit Roadside Zoos. Here's Why"
"The Disturbing Truth About Where Zoo Animals Come From"


  • animal-welfareGive children a real education. Go online and read about these magnificent animals at National Geographic Kids and watch videos at National Geographic Kids Videos.
  • Take kids, better yet take the entire family (make it part of your vacation or a road trip), to a legitimate animal rescue sanctuary where they don't breed, trade or buy animals or euthanize excess animals (did you know that zoos do these things?), don't allow photos with baby or adult animals, and educate kids about the problems with keeping exotic animals, poaching and endangered animals. A few amazing places are the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado (see photo at right), Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Indiana, or Big Cat Rescue near Tampa, Florida.
  • Teach your kids the value of giving back. Have them donate to one of the many great animal sanctuaries like PAWS or The Elephant Sanctuary where, for the good of the animals, they don't allow visitors, but they do accept donations.

MYTH 2. Circuses Are a Good Place For Kids to See Exotic Animals
TRUTH: Animals in circuses spend most of their lives in tiny cages or railroad cars traveling for days, many times without proper vet care, food or water. When you attend the circus, you unintentionally support this suffering.

"Enjoy the Circus? The Animals Don't".

"Circuses: Entertainment at animals' expense" from The Humane Society.
"The Cruelest Show on Earth" from Mother Jones.
"The Cruelty of Circuses" from Teen Ink.
"Sad But True: This is What Life in the Circus is Doing to the Health of Performing Animals" from One Green Planet.



MYTH 3. Pet Stores Are The Perfect Place to Buy A Puppy
TRUTH: Most puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills. Unless the pet store is specifically getting puppies from local animal shetlers, which is wonderful, stay away.

"Where to Get a Puppy: Before you get a puppy, learn how to avoid buying one from a puppy mill".

"What is a Puppy Mill?" from ASPCA
"Puppy Mills" from Best Friends


  • Adopt a puppy from an animal rescue organization like Petfinder or Also check your local animal shelter.


MYTH 4. Animals in Animal Shelters Are Damaged Goods
TRUTH: Many reasons animals are in shelters have nothing to do with the pets themselves. "The most common reasons animals are brought into shelters involve lifestyle changes on the owner's part, as opposed to problems the dog has. Most dogs in shelters come from homes a lot like yours," says Finnegan Dowling, of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley.

"6 Myths About Shelter Dogs That Are Actually Total Lies".

"The New Shelter Dog: Smart Pet Adoption Brings Joy Instead of Stigma" from the New York Times
"Why Everyone Should Rescue: Inside the Life of an Unwanted Dog" from The Daily Beast



MYTH 5. Posing With A Baby Exotic Animal Supports Conservation
TRUTH: It's always a terrible idea to pose with any exotic animal, baby or adult, whether tiger, lion, or other exotic animal. Each year, thousands of tourists pay to pet young lion cubs in South African animal parks. What they don't know is what happens to the cubs when they get older - they often end up in so-called "canned hunts," where hunting tourists pay tens of thousands to shoot down the cubs deemed too big and dangerous to be around humans. 

"Cub Petting to Canned Hunting" from 60 Minutes
"Inside the Grim Lives of Africa's Captive Lions" from National Geographic
"Why Petting Cubs Leads to Abuse" from Big Cat Rescue
"EXPOSED! T.I.G.E.R.S: A Tourist Attraction Exploiting Animals in the Name of Wildlife Conservation" from One Green Planet
"Big Cats are Not Selfie Props! Why a Ban Against Contact With Captive Cats Is Needed … NOW" from One Green Planet


BONUS TIP: Never swim with dolphins. Learn why in the article "The Disturbing Truth Behind Your Swim with the Dolphins" ("Your desire to be with them — is killing them.").

Now you know the rest of the story. Thank you for being open minded and learning the real truth about educating kids about animals.

Kirt Manecke is the author of the award-winning books Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World and Smile: Sell More with Amazing Customer Service. Learn more about Kirt on his website.

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