Educating the youth of Philadelphia to be kind to animals
By Kelsey Duckett
Jack, Little Mama, and Reggie are the stars—and each month they educate the 5th grade class at John Wister Elementary School about treating animals with kindness, responsible pet care, and preventing animal cruelty.
Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia’s, Director of Humane Education, Claire Tillman, developed the program with the help of Allison Lamond, Sara Schoenleber, and other volunteers.
“We started with John Wister Elementary School,” Tillman said. “Now we are doing about four visits a month to over 10 different schools. Children in Philadelphia are eager and interested to learn about animals and the effects of dog fighting and animal cruelty.”
The program, in its second year, brings rescued dogs for hands-on teaching about Pit Bulls, the need for adoption versus buying pets, and how to properly approach a dog.
PAWS rescued Jack, Little Mama, and Reggie from life on the street. Tillman said that using a dog’s life story to teach the children the effects of dog fighting and abandonment has been very successful.
“The children are very excited to see and interact with the dogs,” she said. “They are very receptive to the fact that these dogs have struggled and come a long way in life. It helps them understand that all animals deserve and should have a chance at a good, happy life.”
Jack, Tillman’s dog, inspired the program. He was found wandering the streets alone and ended up at the city shelter, where he was in danger of being euthanized for lack of space.
Jack was rescued by PAWS, and later adopted by Tillman.
“I used to spend a considerable amount of time at PAWS and at area shelters,” Tillman said. “But it was just so heart wrenching and I started thinking of a way to develop a program to teach school-aged children how to prevent pet overpopulation, abuse, and neglect.”
Little Mama, Lamond’s dog, was a former stray who was adopted and returned to the shelter five times—the most in the shelter’s history.
Lamond arrived at the city’s animal control shelter, for what was supposed to be the poor dog’s final time. Little Mama was actually being walked to the euthanasia room when Lamond saved her life.
Reggie, Schoenleber’s dog, was rescued from life on the street, where he was half his normal weight. Now a whopping 70 pounds, Reggie wins everyone over, challenging stereotypes and shatter myths about Pit Bulls.
The Humane Education Program is run with 100 percent volunteer effort. The program is actively applying for grants and funding, with a goal to implement the program in all schools throughout the city.
“I would love to expand this program, in fact, a long-term dream would be to have it implemented in the school’s curriculum,” she said. “We understand that there are a lot of demanding requirements put on teachers, but we would like to see a flexible curriculum so that we can be in the classrooms long-term.”
The program has been successful in the eyes of not only Tillman, but also the schools currently involved. Tillman believes strongly that it is important to help students and teach them the effects of animal cruelty issues so they won’t be a part of the problem when they grow up.
“We find so often that the problems of neglect and abuse happen due to ignorance,” she said. “In the schools we have an opportunity to make it cool to be nice to, and care for animals. This is a way to change the direction, to make a real difference, and educate the youth of Philadelphia.”
Contributions to the program can be made by visitng: PhillyPaws.org.