Live Animals in the Classroom
Releasing unwanted classroom or laboratory specimens can have serious biological consequences.
Live animals are undeniably an essential and economical tool for teaching students about the natural world. Lessons on biodiversity, physiology, genetics, and animal behavior would be dull, if not impossible, without the use of live specimens.
Live animals in the classroom help to stimulate student curiosity, keep students focused during presentations, and promote respect for non-human animals and their ecosystems. Unfortunately, once the lesson plan or the school year is completed, many of the animals used in classrooms or laboratories are released into the wild.
What is a "Non-native" Species?
Also known as invasive, alien, or exotic, a non-native species is a plant or animal species that is not native to that region or habitat. Examples of non-native species in Colorado include; the red-eared slider turtle, bullfrog, Asian clam, large-mouth bass and bluegill.
What’s the Problem?
Releasing classroom pets or surplus laboratory specimens into the wild is illegal in the State of Colorado, and, in all cases, it is unethical. Once released into the wild, many of these unwanted animals negatively impact native species and their ecosystems.
Released animals can result in:
The introduction of harmful pathogens and parasites
Increased competition with native/resident species for resources
Predation on native/resident species
Degradation of the native/resident population’s gene pool
The Bullfrog—a Colorado Non-native
The non-native bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) has a voracious appetite for anything it can fit into its mouth; including other frogs. The bullfrog now inhabits numerous locations that were previously occupied by the native leopard frog (Rana pipiens).
How Can You Help?
A species not native to Colorado. Photo courtesy of the USFWS. Instead of releasing unwanted classroom or laboratory animals into the wild, consider one of the following alternatives:
Give the animal to another responsible teacher
Return it to the place where it was purchased (perhaps make prior arrangements to do so)
Keep it as a classroom pet
Donate it to your local natural history museum, zoo/aquarium (check before you acquire the animal)
Humane euthanasia (contact your local veterinarian for advice)
All of these alternatives outweigh the risk of releasing captive animals into the wild, or other related consequences. To avoid the problem of what to do with unwanted classroom or laboratory animals, think about what you will do with them before you obtain them. Although the release of “one little animal” into the wild may seem benign, that action could have serious biological and legal consequences.
Please don’t turn it loose! Pets are for keeps!