My daughter doesn’t want to skin a cat


When my daughter Brynnan transferred to Culpeper High School in Virginia this year, she was excited that they offered an anatomy class. She wanted to learn more about the human body and how it worked, but her excitement quickly turned to shock and distress.

“Mom, they want me to skin and dissect a CAT,” she told me. “The teacher told us if we have a black cat at home, pick a white cat and vice versa. Like the color of their fur changes how I feel about ripping the fur from a cat who—no matter what—will remind me of my baby Sparta!”

I was horrified. We discussed how to handle it, and she begged me to let her homeschool instead. As a new student, she already felt ostracized and alone, and the thought of taking a stand in a class full of strangers was something that caused her more trauma.

Whether she silently took part in skinning and dissecting a companion animal—something that would cause her immense psychological pain—or stood against the practice and further alienated herself from the other students, she was facing trauma either way.

As her parent, it was my duty to protect her first and foremost. In protest of the barbaric practice going on at Culpeper High School (and, I’ve learned, high schools all across the country) I pulled her from the school curriculum and began to homeschool her.

But two people standing in protest isn’t enough. Will you stand with us in demanding that not only Culpeper High School but schools nationwide end this heinous abuse of students and companion animals?

If so, sign our petition here:

Virginia is one of 11 states in the U.S. with informed student consent laws, but the laws are not being followed and still allow dissection in the classroom and ostracism of those students who object.

Cats are the most popular companion animal in the United States, outnumbering dogs by some 15 million. To expect students to skin and cut up the very same animal that they may sleep with at night is cruel and inhumane, both to the cats and to the students forced to maim them.

There are many alternatives to dissection, including online or computer simulations and 3-D models. It’s time for schools like Culpeper County High School in Virginia to put into practice the humane message they should be sending to all students.

Our companion animals are beloved family pets, to be valued and treasured. Please stand with Brynnan and myself to demand an end to cat dissection in the classroom.

Thank you!

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About Author

Tamira Thayne is the pioneer of the anti-chaining movement in America, and founder and former CEO of Dogs Deserve Better. She is an ordained interfaith minister, an animal activist, an Air Force veteran, an author, and founder of Who Chains You, a publishing and mentoring company for animal advocates beginning January 2016. Click to see author's profile.


  1. How horrible! Even among examples of animal cruelty, this stands out as especially horrifying, partly because it coerces children into participating and undoubtedly serves to traumatize and desensitize them to animal suffering… even that of their beloved companions. Do you know how they obtain the cats used for dissection? Are they lab animals? Culled strays? Bought from shelters with high kill rates? In any case, you and Brynnan have our support and admiration for taking a stand, and we will share your petition widely!

  2. Karen S. Tucker on

    This is absolutely disgusting!! All this does is desensitize our young people and cause the majority to grow up and not only become animal haters and possibly animal killers but also serial killers of human beings! This needs to be stopped immediately! What I want to know is how do they obtain these poor cats? Stealing them, taking them out of shelters on the lie that they are adopting them? You have my support on this issue!

  3. This is indeed a disgrace! Why aren’t the major media even talking about this issue? As usual they are dropping the ball. Acres of space devoted to stupid sports. celebrity worship, the political circus, and other superficialities while issues like this go begging for attention.

  4. Amazing how human beings can rationalize inflicting pain and death to animals. It’s been going on for so long that it’s become part of human nature! Speciesism. That’s the enemy we must fight.

  5. I understand those who dont want to take a stand during high school, but I wasnt one of those kids. I refused to dissect a baby pig and took it outside the school during class and buried it. Needless to say I wasnt alone the principal a few teachers and the security gard followed me, it went great I cried they yelled. But my mom was ready because she I had already told her I wasnt going to do it. She even called the school to explain I was a vegetarian and could not take even seeing an animal be dissected. They didnt care she was told I would probably fail the class if I didnt compliant the assiment. So when they tried to suspend me she brought a lawyer friend… needless to say nothing ended up happening to me and I get my A…but I sure made my point.

  6. When I was a teenager in the 1990s, my high school also dissected cats in the Senior Anatomy class. (I was not in the class–when choosing science courses I always chose those which did not involve dissection, such as Microbiology and Geology.)

    However–it was impossible to escape the fact that cats were being dissected. The kids gave them joke names and carried them out into the hallways and into the Commons. They talked about the experience near-constantly in other classes–one girl even laughed as she said she took her carcass home and showed it to her mom, who cried. When they were through with the bodies, they threw them in the trash cans in the science room, which I also saw. One even ended up being thrown in the boys’ restroom as a joke. One year, the school yearbook even featured a two-page spread of kids gathered around a dead cat like it was a Thanksgiving centerpiece. (I complained to the yearbook advisor about that one, and it did not appear in the following year’s yearbook.) And yes, I did talk to the science teacher and even the principal about all this. I got the same thing about how dissection was a valuable experience, no one else was complaining, blah, blah, blah.

    You may wonder how all of this was OK. Well, keep in mind this was about 20 years ago in a very rural part of the country. Hunting was/is very popular, and cats weren’t highly valued. You had a lot of “disposing” of unwanted litters, etc.

  7. Yeah, I’m in that class. No one actually cares. We ripped the skin right off the cats. Everyone thought it was cute.

  8. At Culpeper County Public High School, Anatomy is an elective class. An elective is a class that is not required for graduation, or even graduation with an advanced diploma. It is a class that students take of their own volition and choice; many of those who take anatomy go on to become nurses, doctors, or others in medication. These are true heroes who go on to save lives. How could you wish these men and women out of the world? As for the role of dissection in their education? One or two years after they can take this course in high school, these students enter college. In college their are mandatory dissections of cadavers – dead humans. Mandatory. It is by this knowledge that they are able to perform surgery and save lives. I doubt that there are many among you that do not have a family member or other loved one that have not had surgery save their life or restore them to better health. Maybe some of you even own pets that have been saved by such surgeries or general knowledge of health and medicine.

    A Final Note:
    As I said earlier, Anatomy is an optional class. Even if one decided to take this course at Culpeper County High School though, they are given the option to opt out of the dissection. Indeed, they then use alternatives, such as computer imaging, and do not even have to enter the room where the dissections occur. In this the teacher is most understanding, and many students do opt out completely, or decide to observe the dissection, but not actively participate.

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