SPCA Camps Offer Special Summer Experiences
SPCA camps are the optimal choice for the child who loves animals. Led by specially trained volunteers and staff members, groups are small and campers learn everything from puppy petting to kennel cleaning. Featuring hands-on attention and daily interaction with our furry friends, campers enjoy a unique learning experience during these one-week sessions.
At San Diego’s Animal Adventure Camp, younger campers enjoy a wide range of exposure to animals and a dose of life lessons for good measure. Pets are played with inside a “safety circle,” a formation where kids sit with each knee touching a neighbor’s. Children then wait to be approached, learning the animals should come to them as opposed to chasing the animals and causing them stress. By the end of this week, this is second nature. Also second nature, crafting. Campers create one-of-a-kind toys for their favorite pups during art. Then it’s playtime. And how better to celebrate your newfound knowledge than to play fetch with the cutest pooch you know?
New Hampshire SPCA Summer Camp includes the Animal Advocates-Campers Picks program. Kids choose an animal – not the cuddly bunny, but the scaly lizard or brutish pit bull – to help be adopted. They get to know it, its personality and peccadilloes, and get the word out. Cage signs are lovingly made and hung and campers advocate for the animal all week. Then, when the animal finds a home, the entire camp celebrates and the kids are elated.
Things are more intense at the Humane Society & SPCA of Sonoma County Career Camp. Teens bottle-feed kittens, bathe and walk shelter animals and learn basic training and socialization skills with the help of assistance dogs. They spend an extended amount of time with the shelter veterinarian and tour a 24-hour animal trauma center with 20 specialties. A field trip to an animal control center focuses on crime scene investigation. Campers study animal-targeted crimes in depth and practice solving the cases, at times going so far as to recreate the scenarios on-site with props including stuffed animals. “While it’s not school, I want them (campers) to leave with a lot of information,” says Beth Karzes, the Humane Education Coordinator. “I want them to have a broad understanding … to expose them to the world and the environment as it exists for animals.”
The Westchester SPCA Critter Camp in Briarcliff Manor, New York keeps kids busy all day. In addition to attending an animal cruelty workshop, campers create Adopt Me flyers featuring the sheltered dog or cat they’d like most like to find a home. Then it’s time to post them around their neighborhood and do some legwork. But, the projects don’t stop there. There’s crafting cat toys, baking dog biscuits and painting murals to brighten things up in the dog run. At the end of each week-long session, kids wrap things up with an ice cream party made special for the shelter.
Campers of all ages interact closely with horses at the MSPCA at Nevins Farm Children’s Camp in Methuen, Massachusetts. Set on a 40-acre farm with a working barn, the equine ambulance program introduces rescue training and the equipment used to transport an injured animal into an emergency vehicle to campers of all ages. Trained staff members assist older campers in pulling a horse mannequin dressed in full gear up a rescue glide so they can experience the actual size and weight of the massive beast. This is many children’s first time interacting with large animals and it is thanks to the MSPCA’s scholarship program. “It’s important nowadays that children have these examples … What a great community we’ll be able to live in one day with these kids leading it,” explains Heather Robertson, Community Outreach Coordinator.
The San Francisco SPCA Summer Animal Camp is also sweet on safety. Campers learn chocolate and dogs don’t mix. “Theobromine” is added to the vocabulary of campers of all ages. Sandra Chew, Coordinator of Humane Education, explains that when taught in an age appropriate way and given the context, even the youngest campers can learn the big word. Campers of all ages also conduct the experiments. M&M’S®, white and Baker’s chocolate are studied to see which is the most toxic to canines. The results, says Chew, consistently amaze the kids, who often return home to share their findings with family and then proceed to pack up all the chocolate in the house.
The Anti-Cruelty Society Animal Explorers Camp in Chicago caters to middle-school students, exposing them to the workings of the largest animal shelter in the Midwest. Here they’ll interact with kennel attendants, veterinary staff, a humane investigator and, of course, the adoptable residents. Taught to “make a difference for animals”, which serves as the camps theme, these pre-teens and teens do just that when they enjoy an outing on the Chicago River. At the SPCA of Texas Critter Camp, creative activities make learning fun for the younger set. Be Bite Free utilizes a custom-created coloring book to teach campers how to avoid animal bites. They’ll learn how to read dog and cat body language and approach unfamiliar animals. The lesson has also been made into an interactive game, found online at www.spca.org/education. Ten Acts of Kindness explores the 10 things an animal needs to be happy and healthy, from food and water to grooming and health care. It also teaches the importance of empathy and compassion for animals.
Empathy. Compassion. These traits stay with these kids long after the camp day ends. So does their adoration of animals. Says Karzes, “Animals are magical beings. Everyone can relate to animals.” If this sounds like your child, an SPCA camp may be the summer experience you’ve been searching for. SPCA camps are located throughout the country.
For more information visit: www.hsus.org or www.spca.com.