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Pets are a ready source of companionship, comfort, and unconditional love for children, and they contribute to a child's emotional and physical well-being. As children care for pets, they learn about responsibility, friendship, sharing, and empathy toward both animals and humans. Studies have shown that pets also have a therapeutic value. Some hospitals have pet-assisted therapy programs through which companion animals, like dogs, visit young patients and comfort them through the soothing effects of petting and holding a soft, warm animal.

Selecting a pet takes careful consideration. Some families want a pet to share in all family activities. Some want to avoid animals with fur because of family allergies. Others prefer caged animals like gerbils, fish, or reptiles because they require less space and attention. Whatever the pet choice, it should reflect a family's needs, income, living space, and lifestyle.


Beck, Alan, and Aaron Katcher. Between Pets and People: The Importance of Animal Companionship. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1996.

"How Pets Help People." In the Humane Society of the United States [web site]. Available from http://www.hsus.org/programs/companion/pets_help_people.html; INTERNET.

"Selecting a Proper Pet: Practical Advice and Considerations." In the American Veterinary Medical Association [web site]. Available from http://www.avma.org/care4pets/avmabuy.htm; INTERNET.

Patricia Ohlenroth

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Social Issues ReferenceChild Development Reference - Vol 6