The Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley and Santa Maria Valley Humane Society have joined forces to launch a Critter Camp for youth members ages 6 to 18 every Monday and Tuesday through the end of August.
Kids will participate in activities from 1 to 5 p.m. each day during the camp at the Edwin & Jeanne Woods Animal Care Complex, 1687 W. Stowell Road, Santa Maria.
Activities are structured to meet the animal shelter’s goals for the minimum mental health requirements of shelter pets, helping homeless pets to gain confidence and skills around unfamiliar people so those animals can be successfully placed into homes. The hope is also to expose young children to positive experiences with dogs and cats, creating that inextricable bond between people and pets.
In child welfare, we teach “stranger danger,” telling kids to stay away from people they don’t know. In animal welfare, pets in shelters will all go home with a family they do not know. In order for our shelter dogs and cats to gain confidence around unfamiliar people, we have developed a robust enrichment and socialization program that requires help from the public. Having kids from Boys & Girls Club interact with, groom, feed and treat our dogs and cats helps prepare pets for success in their new homes.
“The summer membership program at Boys & Girls Clubs is critical for youth success,” according to Jeremy Deming, chief executive officer of Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Maria Valley. “Bringing our kids to the Humane Society creates a targeted opportunity, teaching caring and compassion and high-yield activities like hands-on projects with pets are meaningful for the students. This is the first time we have partnered with the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society. We are eager to demonstrate success for both kids and pets and to enhance the human-animal bond that builds character and model young citizens.”
About 15 kids will participate in the program each day. Activities that the students will accomplish include building food puzzles for dogs and catnip toys for cats. Socialization with cats and kittens will include brushing and playing with toys. Dog enrichment will include leash walking and bathing by the students. Staff from the Humane Society will also brief students on career opportunities in animal welfare like becoming a dog trainer or a veterinarian.
Funding that helps make this new joint venture possible is from the Marianne and Stacey Cocks Fund. Families who wish their kids to participate in the program can register by visiting Boys & Girls Club of Santa Maria Valley online at www.bgcsmv.org/membershipsports or by calling 805-922-7763.