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The Maryland SPCA: Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

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

With generous funding from the Build-A-Bear and Petfinder Foundation Youth Humane-Education Grant, the Maryland SPCA (MD SPCA) was able to enhance existing humane-education programming. We directed funding to specifically target our Pet Pal Reading Program, but also applied some funding to our humane-education presentations, tours, and events. We have witnessed continuing success with our Pet Pal Reading Program. With funding from this grant, we were able to provide children with a t-shirt or a stuffed animal for participating in the reading hour. By receiving a shirt, it gave the children a feeling of inclusion and the sense that they were part of something unique and special. By providing a child with a stuffed dog to take home, they were able to continue practicing their reading at home, in turn helping them to increase their confidence and to further their understanding of compassion toward animals.

We have found that many children are frightened of real animals and in particular we have found they harbor a strong aversion to cats. We therefore applied funds from this grant to purchase a cat costume and introduced the MD SPCA cat mascot. Included in the activity book is a chance to name this mascot, making their new feline friend feel more personal and special to them. This allowed children to interact with a friendly pet and provided an educational tool for children to learn about cats in a safe environment.

For each child in grades K through 6 who comes through the humane-education program, we provide them with an activity book that they are able to take home. We also provide this as a tool for educators to put to use in the classroom with their students. The book helps to reinforce our lessons of compassion and kindness towards pets with fun activities and games.

There are many children in our community whose schools do not have funding for transportation to the MD SPCA to participate in the humane-education program. With this grant, we were able to provide buses for two schools to attend a presentation and then tour our facilities so that they could meet our pets and see the important work that we do to make sure each animal has the compassion and love that he or she needs while in our care.

With our Pet Pals Reading Program, each week we invite children to our shelter to read out loud to our pets. When children read in the kennel, it helps the shelter pets feel safer and less anxious. It is always amazing to hear a kennel of 50 barking dogs grow silent as the children begin to read. Reading to our pets not only soothes their anxiety, it also enables participants to practice their reading skills without judgment. We also take the time to emphasize the importance of how to properly interact with pets and what they can do to help pets in their community.

By covering the cost of transportation to our facilities from schools unable to travel to see us on their own due to lack of funds, we are able to reach more students. Students are able to interact safely with pets and to learn the important lessons of compassion and kindness towards all beings.

How many pets did this grant help?

The funding from this grant helped us to reach an estimated 500 children through the Pet Pals Reading Program, humane-education presentations, tours, and events.

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

From Community Affairs Director Katie Flory: “One of the parents came up to me to tell me how much she loved the program. She told me her son would not read at home, but she can’t get him to leave the shelter during the reading hour. He wants to come every week and she has seen a great improvement in his reading skills.” From a parent, via email: “Katie, I just wanted to thank you for an awesome start to the Pet Pals program yesterday. Will and Claire absolutely loved it, are still talking about it, and can’t wait until next Wednesday. After I posted some pics on Facebook, several of my friends have signed their kids up as well. The way the dogs quieted down brought tears to my eyes. What a gift for the animals! And what a gift for my children, to learn about caring for others and giving their time to their community. I am so grateful! See you next week. –Mary”

Further Reading