Friday, April 30, 2010

Tour Season at HAWS

Tour season at HAWS official starts with the beginning of the school year in September - with about 1,700 people coming through to see our facility and learn about what it is we do in Waukesha County. But it really goes full force in April and May near the end of the school year.
Most of the tours are given to kids between the ages of 5 and 14 -- many of them scouts.

Tours generally begin with a talk about what we do at HAWS and the reasons animals end up there. We also discuss what kinds of responsibilities are involved with pet ownership and encourage kids to do research before they get a pet so that they can be sure that they are committed to proper can and that the type of animal they get is right for their lifestyle.

Then we walk through the shelter -- introduce our adoptable dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals. We walk through our kitchens and laundry area. If the visitors are old enough we stop in our SNIP clinic and talk about 0ver-population and the benefits of spaying and neutering pets.

Today's visitors were from Girl Scout Troop #2684. The 10 and 11 year old girls asked great questions, melted over the animals that they saw, and brought a ton of donations.
At the end of every tour we bring out a few animals for our guests to meet. Today the girls met Dotty the English Spot rabbit, and Jessie the puppy. They had such a great time they really didn't want to leave; we hope they come back soon.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Circus School For Dogs

What makes animals behave the way they do? How does our own behavior influence how an animal behaves? How can we get them to behave the way we want them to?

Last weekend 74 animal professionals congregated at Think Pawsitive Dog Training in Oconomowoc to learn the answers to these questions and more at a seminar hosted by HAWS with speaker Sophia Yin, DVM.

Police officers, humane officers, vets, vet techs, and dog trainers who wanted to learn more about how best to interact with the furry members of our community and gain new skills in their profession were in attendance. Dedicated animal rescuers and shelter volunteers also came to learn, as well as people with a strong interest in animal behavior and training.

After a day and a half of sitting and learning attendees had an opportunity to put some of what they learned in a Sunday afternoon program entitled "Circus School For Dogs".

101 Things to Do with a Box is a great training game for both dogs and people. It allows the human to learn how to train by letting the dog "offer" behaviors. It allows the dog to "figure it out" and use their brain.

Some of the other things attendees learned are profiled in the video below.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Boys, Alligators and Lion Cubs

I spent this last week -- the week most kids have off of school for spring break, with a group of really great kids from another organization. 3 or 4 kids who's lives have been affected by domestic violence came to spend time at HAWS, learn about what we do for animals and spent most of their days hands on with adoptable pets.

Two of the boys were brothers and were very enthusiastic about everything. They told me about a baby alligator they had been able to pet, and the fact that it had it's mouth taped shut. I know that many educational reptile organizations do this with alligators, and so it really didn't phase me.

Later that day one of the boys mentioned how cool it would be to have a lion cub as a pet. "A lion is a wild animal", I said. "Wild animals aren't pets".

"Sometimes they are", one of the boys replied.

"But they don't make good pets", I responded. "Look at that baby alligator you guys got to pet. It's mouth had to be taped shut so it didn't hurt you".

"But baby lions aren't dangerous", they argued.

Trying hard to stay calm I said, "Yes, but they don't stay babies forever. They grow very quickly, and once they get older they become very dangerous -- too dangerous to pet or play with. Would you want a pet like that?"

"No, but then we could give it here."

Trying to reason with them I responded -- "Why would HAWS want a lion? It wouldn't be safe to adopt out and we couldn't keep it here forever."

I'm not sure I got through to them -- the boys didn't seem to be getting the message. But I also know that sometimes you can plant a seed in a child's mind and that it stays with them and they get it later. I hope that a lot of what they experienced at HAWS this week takes root and makes an impact on their lives.