Beacon Lesson Plan Library

It Is Raining Cats & Dogs

Michele Rivera
Miami-Dade County Schools


Does sterilization prior to adoption reduce the euthanasia rate? This interactive lesson focuses on a community problem by measuring the annual adoption rate of sterilized animals to determine if sterilization before adoption reduces the euthanasia rate.


The student knows the community agencies that advocate healthy individuals, families, and communities (eg., health department and volunteer agencies).

The student knows how to positively influence others to make positive choices.

The student knows various ways individuals and groups can work together.

The student uses statistical data to predict trends.

The student applies statistical data to make generalizations.


-Contact names, e-mail addresses and numbers for several area animal shelters that offer animals for adoption and perform spay/neuter and euthanasia (See Preparations)
-Survey (See Associated File)
-200-300 items such as buttons, craft sticks, pompoms, Skittles, or other small candies
-Contact information sheets for several area shelters (See Associated File)


1. Gather materials for the activity/presentation.
2. Call the Humane Education Department of the Humane Society to schedule a presentation.
3. Make copies of surveys and contact information for your county's specific statistics. Call your local animal control agency or contact Laura Bevan at the Humane Society of the United States, Tallahassee, Florida, at 850-386-3435, or e-mail (The associated file contains contact information for Palm Beach.)


*Note: Local humane societies have humane educators who may come and present this lesson for you. Also, a PowerPoint presentation is available in the associated file and can be employed in lieu of or in addition to this activity.

1. Ask students if they have dogs or cats at home.

2. Write the following words on the board and ask the students to tell you what they mean. (These words are also listed in the PowerPoint presentation. See Associated File) The accompanying definitions are a guide; the students should come very close to these definitions.

-Spay - A surgical procedure to remove a female animal's ability to have babies.

-Neuter - A surgical procedure to remove a male animal's ability to contribute to the creation of baby animals.

-Intact - An animal that has not been spayed or neutered.

-Overpopulation - Too many animals and not enough homes for them all.

-Euthanasia - The humane killing of unwanted animals.

-Humane Society - An organization to help stray, abandoned or unwanted animals.

-Heat - The period during a female cat's or dog's hormone cycle during which she can become pregnant.

-Sterilization- A gender-neutral word to describe both spaying and neutering.

3. Of the students who have cats or dogs, ask if they know if their animals are spayed or neutered.

4. Discuss the problems a community encounters when there are too many animals and not enough homes. Tell them that some national statistics put the annual number of euthanasias performed nationally as high as 15 million. Ask the students how they feel about spaying and neutering in general.

5. Ask the students how they feel about euthanasia.

6. Play a game of give away: Give each student an object such as a button or pompom. Tell the student that each item represents a cat (or dog). Take a pompom from one child and give it to another, then give it back to the original student and say: “Your cat (or dog) went to visit (roll your eyes or otherwise indicate that this is a metaphor) his/her cat, and 63 days later gave birth to kittens (or puppies).”

7. Give the student 6 or 8 more pompoms. Continue this randomly around the room until almost everyone has a handful of pompoms.

8. Ask the students to ask several others in the room if they want a puppy/kitten. Tell the students that the student with only 1 or 2 dogs/cats is the “winner” and the goal is to reduce the number of dogs/cats. (Nobody will want to take on other dogs/cats, except for the few students whose dogs/cats didn't “go visit” another student's dog/cat.)

9. Ask the students to discuss ways in which the number of unwanted kittens (or puppies) can be reduced.

Answers may include:
- Breeding ban ordinance
- Fine on breeders
- Spaying and neutering mandates
- Breeding moratorium

10. Hand out the information sheets with the contact information for several area shelters (See Associated File) and ask the students to contact the shelters and ask the questions on the survey. (See Associated File) This can be done either as an individual project or a team project.

11. Homework component: Give the students a set amount of time to have the survey completed. Ask them to come up with a solution to the overpopulation problem and then write a persuasive argument (100-150 word essay).

12. During the interim, you may want to schedule a presentation by calling your local humane society and asking for the humane educator. Specially trained activity dogs are sometimes included in these presentations, if allowed.

13. After the surveys are completed, ask the students to display the results either as a chart or graph to show how the number of euthanasias in shelters that only adopt out sterilized animals compares with the number of euthanasias performed in shelters that adopt out animals that are released intact.

14. Have the students discuss their findings. This could also be a topic for a debate within the class or a debate team project.

15. As a follow up, students may want to write to their local legislators to ask for laws requiring all animals adopted from a shelter be sterilized.


1. Students collect information and interpret results using statistics, charts or graphs. The criteria to use for assessment are as follows:
- Students use real-world statistics to solve real-world problems.
- The numeric data on the survey matches the chart or graph.
- The essays illustrate the need for spay/neuter programs, persuade others to see that spay/neuter programs are necessary and that there are benefits to early sterilization.
2. A pre-test and post-test are attached via the PowerPoint. (See Associated File)


1. ESOL students: The HSUS (contact information above) and your local humane society have literature and posters available in Spanish.
2. ESE students: Have students role-play by taking on the role of the director of a local shelter who is trying to solve the problem of pet overpopulation.
3. The lesson can be extended by having the students multiply the number of animals one cat (or dog) can have in their lifetime if not sterilized. For example: One female cat that lives ten years is capable of going into heat 4 times per year and having 8 kittens per litter. How many kittens will that cat have in her lifetime? How many kittens will that cat and all her female kittens have in a lifetime?

Web Links

A breakdown of how many animals are in the United States and how many of them are sterilized
Humane Society Of the United States

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