Children learning how to take care for and treat animals humanely
A goat, a seemingly endless amount of cats and dogs and a therapy chicken that plays the piano.
These are just some of the animals that children attending the Animal Welfare Association’s (AWA) summer camp this year were able to interact with at the non-profit’s location in Voorhees.
The association offered four, one-week long sessions to children between the ages of 9 and 12 in July and August to teach approximately 100 kids about animals and how to treat and help them.
“Our main idea is to teach the next generation of kids humane education and empathy towards animals and love, care and respect for animals,” said AWA Special Events and Community Programs Manger Sophia Barrett, who is also in her first year as the camp’s director. “Also, an understanding of what it means to rescue. We’re trying to instill all of those values in kids.”
During the camp, the children could learn about animals and how to treat them as pets.
Additionally, the kids help the AWA by making toys and other objects for the animals to keep them active during their stay at the association, which officials say is one of the more important roles that the children fill.
“They create enrichment toys for the animals in the shelter; we like to make sure our animals are never bored in their kennels or cages and that they always have things to occupy their time,” Barrett said.
During the camp, approximately five guests visit the children each week to teach the children about multiple types of animals. Visits from these therapy and service animals help to show those at the camp how animals can be much more than just pets.
The AWA has the space to house approximately 40 dogs and 100 cats, with room also for small mammals, such as rabbits and guinea pigs.
The AWA is trying to help alleviate the problem of overcrowding by bringing in animals in need of care to increase their quality of life and eventually prepare them for adoption after arriving at the shelter.
“That’s something we’re trying to help find a solution for. The animals that come into AWA are from overpopulated shelters, so that’s kind of how we operate by taking in those animals,” Barret said. “We also take animals that are being surrendered by families that can no longer take care of them.”
According to AWA Director of Operations Stacie DaBolt, there are a few stages an animal that reaches the shelter must go through before being ready for adoption, such as being medically and behaviorally evaluated to ensure it is physically and mentally healthy enough to be a pet. There is no set time period the animal is to be at the shelter; however, officials say the typical timeframe allows an animal to be ready for adoption in about three days.
For those interested in adopting an animal, getting help with taking care of their own pets, or making a donation, visit their AWA’s website at www.awanj.orgfor more information.