Help! A Student Gave Me a Live Animal as a Gift. Can I Give It Back


It’s not uncommon for teachers to receive gifts from their students as tokens of gratitude and appreciation. These gifts usually come in the form of chocolates, flowers, or handmade crafts. However, when a well-meaning student presents you with a live animal, the emotions can range from shock to confusion. Your first question might be, “Can I give it back?” In this article, we’ll explore the delicate situations that arise when students give live animals as gifts and provide guidance on how to handle such instances.

Understanding the Rationale

Before deciding whether or not to give the live animal back, it’s essential to understand why your student chose such an unconventional gift. They may have thought the pet would bring joy to your life or serve as an instructive classroom tool. Alternatively, they could have simply misinterpreted your interests or needs. In any case, approach the situation with empathy and consider the rationale behind their decision.

Evaluating Your Ability to Care for the Animal

Next, consider if you’re capable of caring for the animal appropriately. This assessment covers various aspects such as time, financial resources, existing pets compatibility, and your living environment. Do thorough research on the animal species to gauge its specific needs and challenges before making your decision.

Ethical Considerations

Another crucial factor in this decision is whether returning the animal would be ethical. Sometimes giving an animal back may cause greater harm by potentially exposing it to neglectful care or abandonment. In such cases, it’s necessary to weigh personal inconvenience against doing what’s right for the animal’s welfare.

Communicating with Your Student

If you determine that returning the animal is the best course of action, speak with your student privately and sensitively convey your reasons. Show gratitude for their thoughtful gesture but explain that you’re unable to care for the pet optimally. Encourage them to talk to their parent or guardian about it, as they should also be involved in the conversation.

Finding a Suitable Alternative

In case returning the animal is either not feasible or would be detrimental to its welfare, search for other alternatives. For example, you could find a loving permanent home through your network of friends, colleagues, or social media platforms. Alternatively, explore local animal shelters and rescues that may help rehome the pet responsibly.

Preventing Future Instances

To avoid future incidents of receiving unexpected live animals as gifts, communicate your guidelines for accepting gifts clearly and respectfully to your students. Set boundaries by discussing a list of appropriate gift options and acknowledging that while you appreciate their generosity, live animals come with significant responsibility and care requirements that may not suit every recipient.


When a student gives you a live animal as a gift, it’s essential to handle the situation delicately. Consider factors like understanding the student’s rationale, evaluating your ability to care for the pet, ethical implications, and communicating your decision sensitively. Whichever path you choose to take – giving the animal back or finding it another home – ensure your decision prioritizes the animal’s welfare and includes an open dialogue with your student.

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