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Nebraska Humane Society: Build-A-Bear Youth Humane Education Grant Report

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

NHS Humane Education programs reach more than 10,000 youth and families through school programs, community presentations, and shelter tours. NHS employs a Humane Education Director and two Humane Educators, delivering a full array of humane education programming to our community. Additional certified teachers join the team seasonally to provide instruction at Camp Kindness. In addition to a full summer humane education camp series and two winter humane education camp dates, NHS conducts humane education programming for youth at community events, schools, and through the media. As youth mature beyond senior campers, there is an opportunity for them to serve as camp counselors and also participate in The Humane Hands Club, for 11- to 15-year-olds who want to continue to learn about animal welfare and volunteer at the Nebraska Humane Society. 

Tailored to a grade-appropriate level, NHS Humane Education programming works to accomplish the following objectives:

• Provide information about animals, the world in which we live, conservation, and how our actions have a broader impact
• Foster curiosity, creativity, and critical thinking
• Instill reverence, respect, and responsibility
• Offer positive choices and tools for problem solving

Grant funds from the Petfinder Foundation helped support Humane Education programming conducted in areas of our community which are underserved and affected by entrenched poverty. Twenty-five educational presentations were delivered at more than 20 Title I elementary schools, predominately attended by Hispanic children living in Spanish-speaking families in South Omaha. Marina Rosado-Hernandez is our bilingual humane educator who leads the education programming efforts in South Omaha.

In June, NHS partnered with the Omaha Police Department Southeast Precinct for the SAFE (Safety, Awareness, Fitness, and Education) community event. SAFE is an 11-year partnership with Omaha Police Southeast Precinct and is held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center, a location providing safe facilities and services to help support families and, in particular, children. The event enabled more than 800 children and their parents to interact with area education and safety organizations. At the SAFE event, the NHS Humane Educator provides information about NHS and related humane education topics. Questions are able to be answered in both Spanish and English. Our Pet Adoption on Wheels (PAW) van is driven to the event and adoptable animals attend the event, attractingthe interest and attention of attendees. Then when they approach, NHS can provide education on proper pet handling and pet care.

An event similar to the summer SAFE event is planned for Saturday, Dec. 18, where approximately 500 children and their parents are expected to attend. This event features Santa Claus at the Southeast Police Precinct, where the Santa Cop program will distribute gifts after attendees visit educational exhibits by NHS and other community organizations. At the Dec. 18 event, NHS will provide education with a focus on responsible pet ownership and licensing, as the Omaha deadline for pet licenses is in the first quarter of 2017.

Additional educational programming to underserved audiences is provided by NHS on Radio Lobo (a popular Spanish radio station) by our Spanish-speaking Humane Educator, Marina Rosado-Hernandez, and Animal Control Officers. NHS is a frequent guest on the “Community Connections” radio segment. During the radio segment, phone calls are fielded from listeners. Calls range from questions regarding licensing for dogs and cats, requests for information about low-cost spay and neuter services, dog-bite prevention, and the proper care of animals. NHS also conducts humane education on public television, appearing on the radio or public television schedule every six weeks.

There are children in our community who live in areas of entrenched poverty, often witnessing violence between people and violence towards pets. Some may be growing up accustomed to physical and emotional neglect themselves. The majority of our animal-cruelty calls originate from the northeast and southeast sections of our community, which correlates with areas of our community with the highest rates of poverty. Poverty, violence, and cruelty to animals are connected, representing complex challenges for our society that require integrated and innovative solutions.

The Petfinder Foundation’s support of NHS humane education programs provided for youth attending Camp Kindness and members of the Humane Hands volunteer teen group make dog treats, stuff Kongs, and help prepare other enrichment activities for dogs in the adoption kennels (boxes sealed with peanut butter, etc.). The senior campers and Humane Hands volunteers kennel-sit, interacting with adoptable dogs in kennels, providing a human-animal connection as they enhance socialization to help dogs be more adoptable.

NHS makes an impact through humane education. We know that children trained to extend justice, kindness, and mercy to animals become more just, kind, and considerate in their relations to one another and how they interact with the world. Humane Education is a set of tools and strategies for teaching about human rights, animal protection, environmental stewardship, and cultural issues as dimensions of a just, healthy society. Using the natural affinity between humans and animals, Humane Education teaches the values of compassion, respect, and empathy, and helps children see that their actions do make a difference in the world around them.

How many pets did this grant help?

Through NHS, Humane Education programming reached more than 10,000 youth and families this year. Sustaining and protecting life is at the heart of the mission of NHS, where each year more than 25,000 homeless animals find shelter, clean and warm kennels, and loving care.

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

Kennel-sitting is one of the favorite activities for Camp Kindness students. Kennel-sitting helps provide training so that dogs are comfortable sitting at the front of kennel, increasing the likelihood of adoption. Senior campers ages 10-13 have the opportunity to interact inside the kennels. This particular camper, Samantha, had always wanted but never owned a dog. She fell in love instantly with Carson, a 12-year-old, one-eyed cocker spaniel, as he cozied up on her lap and stayed there for the entire 30 minutes, while Samantha texted her mom that she had to meet Carson. Her mom arrived and looked at Carson and told her daughter that he was very sweet but pretty old. The student quickly told her mom that it didn’t matter because they could give him a loving home for whatever time he had left (as our Lead Humane Educator beamed with pride, since this is something we really try and teach the kids!).

She worked a little longer convincing her mom and they came back to my office for a meet-and-greet. Her mom agreed but said her dad was the one whom Samantha needed to convince. Soon her dad and little brother arrived. As if Carson knew just what to do, he went right over to the dad, curled up on his side and fell asleep with his head in her brother’s hand. The rest is history: Carson, now named Rudy, happily went home with his new family.

Tracey Wieser, an NHS Leader Humane Educator, reflects on that day and says, “May we never forget that children are listening to the lessons that we teach. May we never forget the positive power of kids and animals.”

Further Reading