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Humane Society Silicon Valley: Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

How did this grant help your organization and the pets in your care?

The Petfinder Foundation grant was used to pay for all of the supplies associated with facilitating two programs for identified high-risk children. These programs served a total of 95 children. That included transportation from the school site to HSSV and back, program shirts, supplies such as treat bags, folders, three-panel boards, teacher packets, event supplies for the culmination of the program, development of film and training materials.

We offered two programs to teachers who serve at-risk children and teens. These children visited HSSV for intensive, animal-focused workshops, and the students were trained to provide socialization and to care for the daily needs of the shelter animals. At the conclusion of the program, 30 elementary school "buddies" visited HSSV to learn from the teens through a student-designed exhibition that was attended by multiple teachers and the students’ families. This is a critical component of the program – kids teaching kids.

This program challenged the students to be leaders and to set (and achieve) their own goals, and motivated them to evaluate and adjust their behaviors now that they had their little buddies depending upon and looking up to them. As the older students proudly took on the roles of leaders and trusted experts, they felt empowered. The program also taught teens how to recognize, understand and correct negative animal behavior with compassion and without using force. And as students learned the importance of respecting animals’ feelings and let their compassion shine, they started to see kindness as a strength, not a weakness.

The student’s school teacher, Sara Piazzola, said the program “helped them internalize the messages that they send out to people. It also helped them step out of the realm of ‘my own needs’ and into a realm where they needed to think about what someone else was ‘saying’ and how they needed to respond."

The teens in this program cleaned the cages of some of our most high-risk animals: sick feral cats and kittens housed in our Kitten Nursery. They learned about the critical importance of disease control by gowning up and ensuring that whenever one hand touched soiled materials, they changed gloves! They learned to swaddle the animals and help them feel safe while their peers swept out, cleaned and carefully restocked each kennel.

Please see this video, which was shared with their little buddies on the last day of the program, and during their school graduation ceremony: https://youtu.be/C-Z8IBGVvwM

How many pets did this grant help?

Each of the participants socialized a total of five animals while they were involved in the program. More than 100 pets benefited from the care and attention the children provided.

Please provide a story of one or more specific pets this grant helped.

The students in the program significantly supported a critical area at our shelter: the kitten nursery. They soothed shy and fearful cats. They learned all about the importance of disease control and helped each other ensure that the rooms stayed as sterile as possible. They also worked directly with many of the dogs. One in particular, Buttercup, an older basset hound (first photo), barked a lot while she was in her kennel. Her deep and heavy bark caught a lot of people off guard. The students were asked to work with her using positive-reinforcement techniques. While she didn’t stop barking altogether, she was significantly less vocal with people entering her kennel! She has since been adopted.

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