Teaching empathy, preventing bullying

The Dumb Friends League believes that humane education plays an essential role in ending pet homelessness and animal suffering. Our Humane Education department offers programs at our shelters and throughout the Denver metro communities on various animal welfare topics, and this year, the team is excited to launch a new curriculum related to anti-bullying.

Bullying is a pervasive issue that affects not only children and adults but our furry friends as well. The new bullying prevention program is an hour-long program for children in grades first through sixth and is designed to address compassion, respect, responsibility, caring, trustworthiness, integrity and good citizenship when it comes to both humans and animals.

The lesson begins with a DFL 101 introduction, which helps groups understand how the League fits into animal welfare, as well as why animals end up in shelters, how we help them find new homes, and how people can help homeless pets and horses in our care. Students then learn about empathy; talk about bullying, including identifying the different types of behavior; and participate in group activities. The class then comes together for an interactive conversation about how these behaviors translate to animals and ways they are bullied. As a group, students talk about how we can show kindness toward animals, such as fostering a homeless pet from a shelter, helping a lost dog or cat find its way home, participating in an event that supports homeless animals and reporting any type of neglect or abuse they see.

At the lesson’s conclusion, students will be able to:
• Identify what empathy is and how it affects our daily lives
• Recognize different types of bullying toward pets and humans
• Practice communication and social skills
• List some resources in the community that they can use/contact if they suspect that someone is bullying animals or people

As part of the bullying prevention program, and by request, one of the League’s Ambassadogs can participate in the session. (Ambassadogs are highly trained pets used in some of our humane education programs. Kids and adults love meeting our four-legged friends while learning about safe pet interactions and compassion for animals.)

“We truly believe that by bringing messages of kindness and compassion for animals to children and adults, we are helping to cultivate a society where animals are valued,” said Dr. Apryl Steele, president and CEO of the Dumb Friends League. “By helping children generalize the empathy they have for pets to include people, we hope to decrease bullying and increase empathy in our society.”

Whether you’re a teacher looking to schedule a classroom visit, a scout troop hoping to earn requirements toward pet-related badges or a community organization interested in knowing how to stay safe around dogs, we have a program to meet your needs, including bullying prevention. For more information about our programs, visit ddfl.org/community-education/ or call 720.241.7132 to schedule a lesson.