Pets are people, too.

OK, that’s not exactly true. Pets aren’t people. But did you know that the way people treat pets runs a very close parallel to the way they treat people?

I was watching something on the History Channel the other night that reported almost all serial killers were unusually cruel to animals when they were children.

An animal control officer once told me local municipalities could save a lot of money by having Animal Control and the Department of Social Services carpool together.

He estimated that in 90 percent of the visits he made for animal cruelty or neglect, if the owners had children, DSS was paying visits to the home, too.

At the SPCA, we are encouraging humanity toward people and pets through our Humane and Character Education program.

Through this program, we teach children the basics of proper pet care and important character traits that nurture relationships with pets and people.

Kindness, compassion, respect, responsibility, education and understanding are common themes in these lessons.

Historically, the program has consisted of seven 45-minute lessons in Aiken County public school classrooms. We have dozens of well-trained volunteers, many of whom are retired educators, who go into these classrooms armed with furry friends and the golden rule.

The children cannot wait for these days, and teachers have been overheard saying things like, “The children floated three inches from the floor after last month’s lesson.”

Since the completion of the new SPCA Albrecht Center, the program has grown significantly to include field trips to the SPCA.

We have hosted nearly 1,000 students since the new facility opened for tours, lessons and lunch.

The SPCA does not charge admission for field trips, but we encourage kids to bring donations for the animals.

We have already signed up several local camps for field trips to the SPCA this summer and are now open for birthday parties, too. Of course, we are still making visits to the schools for our traditional humane education lessons, assemblies and family enrichment projects.

The results of these visits are often startling to me and beneficial to the children, as well as their pets.

When I go into a class, I expect to help children understand pet ownership. Among other things, I recommend alternatives to chaining dogs and encourage vaccinations.

Many times, in revealing the way their pets are being treated, children give me and the observant teacher or guidance counselor a glimpse into how they are being treated, as well.

I once had a small child raise her hand proudly in response to the question, “Do you help care for the pets in your home?”

When I called on her, this 5-year-old puffed out her little chest and said “My mommy lets me babysit!”

When prompted further, it became apparent that while the parent was out all night, the child was babysitting her 18-month-old sibling, not the family pet.

So here is some Humane Education for you adults out there:

• When you see a pet being neglected or mistreated, report it. Call your local law enforcement. You can remain anonymous. Do it for the pet chained outside or for the child inside, but do it.

• Bring your own children out to the SPCA for good, clean family fun.

• Treat your pets like people because how you treat your pet says a lot about you as a person.

For further information about Humane Education, volunteering, adoptions, vaccinations, or spay and neuter surgeries, call the SPCA at 803-648-6863 or visit us at