Friday, April 1, 2011

Critter Club

For years HAWS has had to disappoint animal-loving kids by turning them down as volunteers. Our policy is that teens between the ages of 13 and 15 need to volunteer with a parent, and can only volunteer without parental supervision once they reach 16. This means that teenagers who don't have a willing parent, or kids under the age of 13 don't have an opportunity to contribute their time to the animals at HAWS.

This policy is difficult for many kids and their parents to understand. It's not that we don't like children -- we do, really! It's just that interacting with animals at a shelter is very different than interacting with the family pet. Here at HAWS we get a range of personalities in our adoptable animals -- everything from easy going and extroverted, to shy and intolerant of certain interactions by strangers. It takes a certain degree of maturity, responsibility and common sense to ensure safety around some of our animals. And while there are some adults that don't have these qualities -- they are much more likely to be lacking in children.

We've started a new program called Critter Club on a trial basis. For the next two months 15 kids between the ages of 11 and 13 will be allowed to volunteer under the direct supervision of HAWS staff. It won't all be about cuddling with fuzzy creatures, however. The kids will be cleaning cages, washing dishes, restocking poop bags in our out-door waste stations, and cleaning windows. Once their work is done they'll be allowed to take out cats and some of the other animals and do some socialization.

The other component to Critter Club is educational. Last night they went through the same training that our regular volunteer cat cuddlers go through. Next week we'll be doing trials on some scent games with adoptable dogs that we plan on using at HAWS Annual Walkathon in May. And in May they'll have an opportunity to watch our veterinary staff at work doing surgery in our SNIP Clinic. If this program is successful we'll be offering it to a limited number of kids each semester during the school year. Watch out for updates, and I'll let you know!

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