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Teachers, Here’s How to Get a Cheap or Free Classroom Pet (Even If You’re Teaching Virtually!)

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Teachers! Want to add a new friend to your classroom?

On August 1st, Pets in the Classroom will once again begin taking applications for the 2020 – 2021 school year! This amazing grant program provides teachers financial support to purchase and maintain small animals in their classroom – anything from a fish, hamster, gerbil, guinea pig, or parakeet. Even better, you can still qualify for the grant if you’re teaching virtually this year!

Note that this is not a first come first-served program – ALL teachers who qualify for the Pets in the Classroom program will receive a grant!

They do ask that you carefully consider what type of pet you want for your room as well as district guidelines and even suggest that you have your students vote on what type of animal they would prefer.

lizard in a terrarium

The Pets in the Classroom grant can be applied for every school year; however, if you have previously received the grant you will only be eligible for a sustaining grant to help provide for the classroom pet you have already purchased. If you no longer have the original pet, you can also use the sustaining grant to purchase a new pet and supplies.

Teachers, Pre-K through 9th grade, in both public and private schools are eligible to apply for the grants even if you’re teaching virtually! Head here to learn more about the program.

kids holding class pet

Here is how Pets in the Classroom worked for one reader –

“I did this last year after seeing it here and it worked out great! I did the aquarium with fish from a private pet store. Everything was reimbursed that way. I got neon rocks, fake plants, and extra food and filters since I had extra to spend.

It was nice to support a local shop, too. I would recommend just normal little inexpensive tetras to start. I bought Goldfish at first but they weren’t as hardy. My students loved it and I would definitely recommend it since it was easy to buy at a local shop, submit the receipt by the due date, and get a check in mail.”


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Join The Discussion

Comments 27

  1. heatherburch

    I did this last year and have a beta fish in my classroom. My students LOVE it! So easy to apply and getting your pet from the store.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      How fun! Thanks for sharing your experience! SO glad to hear how easy it was to apply!

  2. Teacher1

    This program is amazing. They also have a a sustaining grant so that you are able to receive up to a certain amount in supplies each year for your pet received with the grant.
    I bought supplies, submitted receipts and received a check back.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Awesome! Thanks for taking a moment to comment! Good to know!

  3. Meljnda

    I am so thankful that rabbits are not on that list, as they are definitely not animals for kids! Kudos to such a neat program!

    • Alyssa

      I was thinking the same thing! Rabbits are not starter pets and need lots of room, special care, and an exotic vet. As a bunny mom and rescue volunteer, I always worry about bunnies being used as class pets.

    • Amber.Underwood01

      Yes!!! Same! We have a house rabbit and he is a lot of work! He is so worth it though! But definitely not something to be kept in a cage in a classroom with kids

  4. Bethany Ostler

    I did this last year and my students loved it. Take a look at the different stores and their coupons before deciding what to do. Petco gave a coupon for a free enclosure and 50% off the pet where Petsmart gave 50% off the enclosure and a free pet.

    I walked out of Petco with a $200 cage, supplies and pet for $32 out of pocket.

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Wow! Thanks for the helpful tip, Bethany! SO glad to hear your students enjoyed the experience!

  5. Beth

    When I click apply for the grant it says error. Is there anything I can do?

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Oh darn! Maybe wait a moment and try again OR switch over to a different browser. Hoping that does the trick!

      • Beth

        I tried multiple browsers. :/ I can’t get the petco grant to work.

        • Tiffany

          The main information page says the grants for 2020-2021 don’t open until August 1st. Maybe that’s why they aren’t loading now. You could wait and try then. 🙂

  6. Sandy Norris

    Will this work for homeschools?

  7. Melissa

    I wanted to do this, but they will be misting my classroom every evening with a disinfectant. I’m concerned for the pet’s safety. ☹️

    • M

      Try a fish and tank lid.

    • Amber.Underwood01

      That’s definitely a concern!

  8. Lisa

    Pets in the classroom may be fun for kids, but not the animals. Please read the article linked here to learn why having a classroom animals is a ‘fail.’ Instead, check with your local animal shelters to see if they have humane education that teach children how to properly care for and interact with animals. Because most learning is remote these days, you wouldn’t even need to use the closest shelter. https://www.peta.org/teachkind/humane-classroom/whats-problem-classroom-pets/

    • MdwstMum

      Thank you! Often they only have one too and they get very lonely and bored. If you want to teach kids about responsibility, you can do so by assigning chores. No need to make an animal have a depressing life to do so.

    • Tracey

      I am an animal science teacher who has classroom pets. Our pets are cared for amazingly and get wonderful care. I think this is a great program and they provide lots of info on what owning certain pets entails. They also ask good questions. I am not saying every teacher should get a pet but for those that do their research and have a solid plan for weekends/vacation/summer, it’s an awesome program. As a teacher that invests a lot of her own money in our animal’s enrichment, food, supplies, etc., this is a great way to give back to teacher’s as well.

  9. Tiggertoon

    I’m in Chicago trying to re-home a guinea pig for the people I housesit/pet sit/babysit for. His name is Mr Squeakers and he is adorable! Unfortunately, I live in a 400 sq ft apt(with a cat AND A husband), and have NO room for this cute fuzz ball. If anyone is interested ( I can even deliver within a reasonable distance 😁) just drop a line here, and I’ll get you my info. I tried Craig’s list, and it turns out that anyone who answers wants to feed a snake😳

  10. Sweetklouise

    Home based Virtual schools do NOT qualify. Might wanna change that on here. I got half way through the application and it says it doesn’t qualify. Super disappointed. But I’m gonna get her a fish anyways lol

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Hi Sweeklouise! We don’t have home-based virtual schools mentioned in the post. If you let us know where you saw that, we’ll be happy to change it.

      • sweetklouise

        I guess where it says virtual had me thinking it was assumed that all virtual schools. Im so bummed about this year for school. I have so much fear about it all! I hope all our kids and teachers and everyone stays safe.

        • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

          I’m so sorry, sweetklouise! The Hip2Save team is cheering you on!

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