Department Dish: Caterpillars and Children (or the Humane Education Department)

Critter Camp

by Robin Russell

“Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.” – Bradley Miller

Kelsey San Buenaventura, humane education manager, includes that in her email signature and says, “Isn’t that a perfect explanation of our department and mission?” Kelsey, Katherine Frank and Kyle Warner, community educators, along with 45 volunteers deliver the message of respect for all animals in a wide variety of programs to school students and community groups of all ages, either in schools, at meeting places or in our shelters. Most programs are provided at no charge, with the exception of our youth camps and clubs, which have a nominal fee.

The programs are of three types: Day Programs, Extended Programs and Community Programs. For the details on these programs, pick up the Dumb Friends League brochure “Learning for All Ages” or click on the Learning Programs link.

A lot of these programs are aimed at those too young to volunteer at the Dumb Friends League. We know a lot of young people love animals, and through Humane Education programs, they can learn how to be advocates for animals or get introduced to the responsibilities and rewards of volunteering. Some programs offer hands-on service projects to benefit homeless pets waiting for adoption.

The impact of these programs is great. In FY16, the Humane Education Department presented 826 programs that reached 23, 976 adults and children. When asked for a favorite story about the impact of the programs, Kelsey told of a particular lesson, “Too Many Pets, Not Enough Homes: Overpopulation” the team taught in a low-income neighborhood. In a game, the children learn about the importance of spaying and neutering and are told about our mobile spay and neuter units. When the children returned from winter break, one of them told Kelsey she’d asked her parents to get their dog spayed, but they told her they couldn’t afford even the discounted cost plus Christmas presents. The little girl decided to forego presents that year and get her dog spayed.

Kelsey said it’s hard to measure their success in Humane Education. They just have to hope that in 20 years the children they’re teaching now will make the decisions to have their pets spayed and neutered and adopt deserving pets from animal shelters.

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