by Bridget Keenan, Director of Development
When I give tours of our new Animal Community Center, I love to spend time in our Education Center, explaining to our “tourists” that Education is a powerful way to really make a difference regarding pet homelessness in the future of Santa Clara County. Teach a child why a dog barks or why a cat scratches, and they will bring this information home to their families and help their parents understand why the puppy needs training, or why the cat needs a scratching post, so mom and dad don’t get so frustrated with the pet that they are surrendered to a shelter. Teach children that animals are individual beings — that they can make the animal feel loved or feel hurt, happy or sad, safe or scared — and you are teaching children how to be responsible pet owners, and ultimately responsible members of society.
For four weeks this summer at our “Amazing Animals Summer Camp”, we enjoyed a flow of about 75 children between the ages of 6 and 12, who each for one week came to our Animal Community Center and learned about dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, tarantulas, frogs, and more. There were nearly 20 teenage camp counselors who worked with the children; these counselors may have learned more about animals and children than even their younger charges did! After their summer here, our counselors shared their favorite experiences.
Adam Donald reported: “Another activity was about the overpopulation of cats. During this activity, the campers were able to discover why there were so many cats in Santa Clara County and learned ways to prevent this….the campers [learned] about a variety of different animals and that all animals are valuable.”
Sarah De Vargas shared, “The children were also focused on how to take care of animals because they wanted to make sure that they were treating pets right and that they were being great caretakers of their animals.”
And Sammi Mielke wrote, “My favorite activity that we did was making habitat boxes and it seemed like the kids liked it, too…Although this was a fun activity, it also taught all the kids what animals needed to survive. A lot of the necessities for the animals turned out to be the same for us.”
Our campers and counselors learned important lessons that will stay with them their entire lives. I like to think that, because of our incredible Education Programs, we are much closer than ever toward ending pet homelessness in our community.