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04 Dec, Sunday
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Montreal Families

SPCA offers animal programs for youth

From an early age, Baron Hertzog knew he wanted to help animals. He would visit the Montreal SPCA with his mother and couldn’t wait to be old enough to volunteer. This fall, the Montreal SPCA launched new programs for young people.

Baron, a 12-year-old student at Bialik High School, joined the Montreal SPCA’s Youth Ambassador Junior Program. During this six-weeks, kids ages 10 to 12 visit the organization’s annex once a week for two hours and take part in a series of workshops and activities relating to animal welfare and advocacy. They learn how to interact with the shelter animals (dogs, cats, rabbits, birds, etc), feed them and provide companionship. During one session, Baron created cat toys and focused on feline socialization.

“We want to encourage empathy and compassion and really develop civic mindedness,” says Colleen Ovenden, director of education and community outreach for Montreal SPCA.

According to a report released by the organization, in 2015, it took in and sheltered more than 16,000 animals, 10,000 of which were cats.

There are three other programs available.

The YAP Teen Program is geared towards those between 13 and 17 and focuses largely on working directly with the animals through positive reinforcement training, dog walking and safety discussions.

The YAP Academy Program works with students both on-site at the Montreal SPCA and offers in-class workshops and presentations. It covers topics such as exotic pet care and animal socialization.

The YAP Community Program works with local organizations like Girl Guides to tackle issues like bite prevention and behaviour.

“These are empowerment programs and the most important message is that [young people] can make a difference regardless of their age,” Ovenden says.

With his 13th birthday approaching, Baron will be eligible to participate in the YAP Teen program over the winter. He is looking forward to tackling new issues and taking on more responsibility at the shelter. “Animals deserve the same respect as humans, and we should help any way we can,” Baron said.

There are several sessions available for each program. It costs $95 per session for the YAP Teen and Youth Ambassador Junior Program, and prices vary for the community and academy programs.

For more information, visit spca.com.

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