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.