Camp has been over for a little more than a week now, and I've been reviewing the surveys parents have submitted regarding their child's attendance at HAWS Kids 'n Critters Day Camps. One of the comments that comes up on the surveys from time to time is how we choose the location of the field trips that campers go on in during the week long camps.
Field trips are generally planned and booked in January or February prior to the start of camp. We look for several criteria in our field trips. First of all they need to be animal related -- this is Kids 'n Critters Camp after-all! We look for places that aren't too far from HAWS, and are within the budget that we have set aside for field trips. One of our major criteria is that the message the kids will obtain from the field trip experience matches the message that we are trying to promote at HAWS.
For example -- last year we looked at several facilities and decided against them because the message they promoted wasn't one that HAWS could support. One facility was a petting zoo that bred and raised rabbits in outdoor pens to eventually be butchered for food. Since HAWS sees first-hand the repercussions of the over-population problem of pet rabbits, we promote rabbits as being pets that should be spayed or neutered and for health reasons and their well-being should be housed indoors. While we realize that many people eat rabbit, we felt that we couldn't tell the kids the rabbits they were petting on the field trip were an exception to what we promote, since they would eventually end up as meat. Instead we looked for other field trip alternatives.
Another field trip -- one we actually took this year, was an organization that had a variety of activities for the kids. The exotic bird show was wonderful, the barnyard petting zoo a lot of fun. However, they had an indoor animal area that had a variety of animals. Some of the animals were those that people keep as pets, and animals that HAWS routinely places up for adoption -- such as kittens, rabbits and guinea pigs. What bothered me was that in this same area - side by side with the domesticated pets, they housed wild animals. They had a descented skunk (skunks are illegal to keep as pets in Wisconsin), a baby bobcat, and a monkey -- to name a few.
The facility's staff could have used this as an educational opportunity and explained to the kids that while guinea pigs and rabbits are great pets, bobcats and monkeys are animals that while incredibly cute, are wild animals and will never make appropriate pets. Additionally, since they are wild animals they most likely wouldn't be happy as pets. Zoos with all their staff and resources have a hard enough time doing all they can to ensure their animals get the enrichment, environment and care that they need. Keeping a wild animal as a pet is not humane, and unnecessary considering all the choices we already have in domesticated animals.