Dog Rescue in Action – Students Impact the Future


 Three girls on sofa

 

When Julie Ogden tells her Woodcliff Middle School science students about her volunteer work at The Last Resort Animal Rescue in West Milford, NJ, they want to help.

 

Unable to assist the rescue in traditional ways due to their ages, Ogden’s students formed Woodcliff Animal Rescue Engineers (WCare) in 2008.  Through the extracurricular club sponsored by Ogden and technology teacher Fred Matzan, students use technology skills learned in the classroom to promote animal rescue.

 

The partnership between WCare and The Last Resort exemplifies an increasingly popular education model and a national trend in animal rescue.  Service learning combines community service with social and academic learning.  Service-learning projects allow students to gain firsthand knowledge and hands-on experience while effecting change in their community.  These projects encourage a high level of engagement in the cause and the learning process. 

 

Students become more concerned citizens and are more likely to stay committed to a cause after the project is completed,” says Ogden.  “Likewise, students become more active learners and are better equipped for future academic and social success.” 

Last Resort pet adoption event in NJ

More than 20 WCare members meet weekly to create digital videos of The Last Resort’s dogs and cats, aiding in their adoptions by drawing attention to their unique qualities.  With these videos, Ogden’s students make a significant contribution to the rescue.

 

“Unlike many of our adult volunteers, children are tech savvy,” Ogden says.  “They have the skills and the time to create persuasive videos, incorporate music to set the mood and post them on You Tube for Potential adopters to view.” 

 

WCare is a valuable experience for the students too.  “In addition to practicing their technical skills, students learn how to edit photos and sound to reach people with a specific message,” Ogden explains.  “They have to carefully consider purpose, audience and communication strategies.  The world is changing rapidly.  More people are watching videos than reading.  These skills are going to be invaluable to these students’ futures.” 

 

WCare students are also developing leadership and social skills through engagement with their community.  Students are fostering dogs with their families and assisting with adoption events.  They are coordinating fundraisers and attending community events to raise awareness for rescue, and several past members have started rescue clubs in their high schools.

 

“These children are becoming concerned citizens who will be a force to be reckoned with,” says Ogden.

 

The Haven-Friends for Life in Raeford, NC, takes a different approach to service learning with its animal rescue internship program.  The program offers people 18 or older hands-on learning in administration, photography, building and contracting, graphic design, dog grooming, writing and outdoor recreation.  Internships require a commitment of 20 hours per week with at least one eight hour weekend day. 

 

The Haven started its internship program in 2009 but always has welcomed people seeking an educational experience with the rescue.  When David Osgood, of Dedham, MA, was stationed at Ft. Bragg, NC, the animal loving-sergeant began volunteering at The Haven.  Upon realizing the high level of need at the rescue, he decided to formalize nd promote the internship program. 

 

“The Haven has a real need for quality volunteers who are passionate and professional,” Osgood says.  “Volunteers work hard with no pay.  To have someone who is self-motivated do the job makes all the difference in this kind of work.  Our interns have wonderful drive and make The Haven a much stronger organization.

 

Osgood also recognizes the program’s benefits for the interns.  Our program gives interns a wealth of opportunities,” he says.  “They gain skills and, if they wish, credit hours while working for a good cause.  Employers today are happy if you have a degree, but what they really want to see on your resume is work experience.  If you can point to proven results – hours worked, projects completed – you will be far ahead.  This advantage is something The Haven can provide.”

 

Career preparation and an advantage in the work force are valuable benefits of service-learning experience at rescue organizations, especially for people interested in pursuing a shelter or veterinary career.  The Teen Track program at the Arizona Animal Welfare League & SPCA (AAWL) in Phoenix, focuses on teaching sixth through 12th grade students about animal rescue.

AZ Animal Welfare League & SPCA during Teen Tracks training program

 

Teen Trackers receive in-depth training in animal body language and animal handling skills, assist with daily care of the pets, observe and shelter veterinary clinic staff members, participate in guest presentations and education field trips, and help lead shelter programs.

 

Students participate in a minimum six weekend shifts during the semester-long course.  As they complete training and accomplish projects and volunteer tasks, students advance through the program’s levels: caregiver, handler and curator.  With each level comes advanced training and greater responsibility. 

 

Program coordinator Rachael Gardner of Phoenix says most Teen Trackers participate in the program because they want to work in animal-related careers.  “The Teen Track program gives them a head start,” she says.  “Students also learn responsibility and gain public speaking, problem solving, team building and leadership skills.”

 

In return, Teen Trackers help to change staff members’ perceptions about teenagers’ capabilities.  “I think there are perceptions in our society that teenagers are self-absorbed and don’t care,” Gardner says.  “The Teen Track program shows they can accomplish a goal and help society.”

 

Service-learning collaborations offer numerous benefits to students while helping to advance animal rescue goals and create long-term animal rescue supporters. 

 

“I can’t think of anything more empowering than these students discovering they have the ability to change the world,” Ogden says.  “The thousands of animals I have rescued pale in comparison to the impact these students will have on the future.”

 

 

 

 

Sharing Your Life With a Furry Friend


Late in 2011, the American Humane Association launched a one-of-kind study to understand why three to four million adoptable pets are euthanized every year in shelters across the country.  “Keeping Pets In Homes” is a three part study to curb pet homelessness. The goal is to learn why some people adopt a cat or dog, some remain pet-less and others surrender them to shelters.  The first phase of the research was just released and the results are very interesting.

While there are 117.5 million households in the U.S., only 46.3 million have a dog in their family and 38.9 million own a cat.  That leaves 27.5 percent of the households in America without a pet.  The first phase of  Keeping Pets In Homes examined the reasons why so many people do not share their lives with furry friends.

Funded by a generous grant from PetSmart Charities, phase one, “Reasons For Not Owning A Dog Or Cat,” interviewed 1,500 adults who previously owned a pet and non-pet owners to determine the reasons behind their decision.  Understanding the respondents’ hesitation to bring a cat or dog into their families is the first step toward developing effective strategies to get more homeless pets adopted.

Phase one also examined if people in the study were open to the possibility of becoming a pet guardian in the future.  Here are the top reasons cited for not owning a cat or dog:

  • The cost associated with having a pet is too high.
  • Not enough time to care for an animal.
  • Grief over the loss of a previous pet was too much to      handle.

Surprisingly, people named the death of a previous pet as the top reason why they did not currently have an animal in their household.  20% of dog owners and 17% of cat owners said the stress of watching a beloved pet grow old and die was so traumatic they had chosen not to go through experience again.

When respondents were asked if they were open to the possibility of pet ownership in the future they said:

  • 45%  of previous dog owners would consider getting another, while 34% of previous cat owners were receptive to another cat.
  • 25%  of those who had never owned an animal said they were “probably” or “definitely” open to bringing a dog into their family compared to 10% for cats.
  • Previous owners said they would adopt from a shelter or rescue organization for obtaining a new dog or cat.
  • Those who have never owned an animal, 51% said they would rescue or adopt a dog and 42% indicated they would use a shelter to adopt a cat.

Some of the data from the study was discouraging.  More than one-third of non-pet owners said they dislike cats and only 22% of previous dog owners and 18% of former cat owners said they obtained their past pets from a shelter or rescue group.  And despite the documented health and emotional benefits of pet ownership, an overwhelming 90% of seniors said they were not open to owning a dog or cat in the future.

“There are still significant hurdles to overcome in helping to keep more of these healthy, adoptable animals out of the nation’s shelters,” said Dr. Patricia Olson, chief veterinary advisor for American Humane Association’s Animal Welfare Research Institute.  “Using the data gathered and the work to be done in future phases of this study, we hope over time to decrease pet homelessness and relinquishment.”

“By understanding the reasons why so many Americans do not own a pet, and learning what we can do to increase lifelong retention of those that do,” said Dr. Robin Ganzert, President and CEO of the American Humane Association, “we can take the necessary steps to change minds, change policies and change activities to help get more of these beautiful animals out of shelters and into the arms of loving families.”

Phase two of the study is underway. The focus is to examine people who have adopted a cat or dog in the last six months from public and private shelters in three major cities and determine how they and their new pets are adapting.

More data to come and hopefully better qualified owners will adopt and keep their loving pets.  With so many reasons and such wonderful benefits to owning and loving pets, it’s only natural that the numbers will grow.

My three rescue dogs, all females are posted below because I want you to see first-hand what LOVE truly means!  Best wishes my friends …