Animals are props.

Now that I have your attention, let me explain!

It's that time of year again - the annual "animals are not props" months. The time when people share social media posts about how animals are abused at Easter time by being given as gifts or from posing for photos with children. Is it true that some photographers "borrow" or purchase animals only for photo sessions with no regard to the animal's well being? Yes. There are always outliers in every situation - just like irresponsible dog owners and like selfish parents. And we should all band together to watch for and to stop these individuals. But now let's look at the bigger picture.

If you're not familiar with animals, let me first explain that most of them need love and attention just like us. Sometimes the way to an animal's heart is through its stomach. Sometimes they just are curious and want to smell and watch us. says that "animals are capable of experiencing emotions like love in a similar way to humans". The Newberry Observer goes as far as to say that "animals need our affection and love" in order to survive. This is something I have seen many times in my years of experience at my not-for-profit animal rescue ranch. An animal often arrives scared and unsure of everything, but usually grows to trust and even "ask" for attention.

One might argue that an animal needs love from their owner, but not random children. That is an argument that my experience has also proven wrong just like volunteers at shelters will testify. Like humans who desire our family's love and attention but also desire time with others, many animals are interested in spending time with friends - both old and new. That is why shelters ask for volunteers to help love on and play with animals. If this weren't true, only the staff that is often around the animals every day would be able to give them the attention they need.

So when the opportunity for them to be cuddled, fed and loved arises, doesn't it seem rather counterproductive to their well being to deny them that opportunity? 

girl happy about baby animals and ducklings
boy smiling at duck

When I say "most animals" I certainly do not mean all. I have seen quite a few animals that need time to trust humans, and I know there are plenty of animals that never want to be touched by humans. And that's okay. Those animals are cared for the way that is best for them just like the animals that want attention get as much attention as possible.

Education on how to handle and play with animals is truly special for children. During our photo sessions I continually talk to the kiddos about how to properly hold a bird so that it doesn't get hurt and so that it feels calm. I tell them about the breeds of animals they are seeing, and why animals make the sounds they are making. Can you imagine the results from learning with hands on experience instead of simply looking at pictures in books?

spring animals with children in greenhouse
girl in dress holding baby goat in greenhouse
young famer boy feeding animals on floor

Legally in the United States, certain animals require a license to work. The license is from the USDA and differs from place to place. Added insurance in addition to a business' regular insurance is also required. We all know laws aren't always enough to protect everyone, so it goes without saying that doing your best to know your photographer, petting zoo or breeder's morals and processes is essential to having a clean conscious when using animals. But in the end, please do not shy away from using them and allowing them the love they need!

girl with baby alpaca cria
boy holding duck in greenhouse for photoshoot
girl kissing baby goat in greenhouse
little girl with baby animals for easter
boy with bunny in greenhouse
boy feeding carrot to animal
alpaca posing with baby girl
boy smiling at camera because of ducks
boy feeding baby bunnies
family in greenhouse with special needs boy
children posing with baby animals in greenhouse
girl holding baby ducks