The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends


Scout Programs are in full swing at the Houston SPCA

Scout Program Graphic

The Houston SPCA’s Scout Program offers scouts of all ages in the Houston area the opportunity to learn about animals and commit to helping animals at the Houston SPCA.

Looking for a tour?

We offer guided shelter tours to scout troops for free! Your troop can go on a tour of our shelter any day of the week – just schedule it with our Community Education department at least two weeks before you arrive. Booking for tours this fall has already started and weekends fill up fast. Please email or call the Community Education department (713-869-7722 ext. 143) to schedule your troop’s shelter tour today.

Calling all Cub and Boy Scouts!

Looking to earn that next belt-loop, pin or merit badge? If your answer is yes, the Houston SPCA can help you out!  For Boy Scouts who want to earn the Dog Care merit badge, the Houston SPCA is the perfect place to start. Book a tour for your troop and learn about responsible pet care, how the Houston SPCA helps animals in our community, and what types of careers the Houston SPCA offers in animal welfare. Cub scouts can fulfill many of the requirements for the Pet Care belt-loop and pin at the Houston SPCA including taking a tour of our animal shelter, scheduling a meet and greet with a veterinarian, and learning about how animals communicate with each other and humans.

Is your Girl Scout troop looking for their next fun patch? 

If you are a Girl Scout who loves animals and wants an exclusive patch for your sash or vest, this program is for you!

The Houston SPCA Paw Pals Patch Program focuses on teaching safety around stray animals with lessons adjusted to each troop’s age level. All Girl Scouts participating will receive a unique Houston SPCA Patch and a colorful Paw Print Patch for $3 per scout. Troop leaders can purchase patch sets for their scouts during the on-site portion of this program.

To receive the Houston SPCA Paw Pals Patch set, each scout must complete the activities in the appropriate troop leader’s guide (see below). As part of the Paw Pals Patch Program, each troop is required to visit to the Houston SPCA for a tour of our shelter.

Download your Leader’s Guide:  Daisy Level Requirements

Download your Leader’s Guide:  Brownie Level Requirements

Download your Leader’s Guide:  Junior Level Requirements

Download your Leader’s Guide:  Cadette-Senior Level Requirements

Is your troop ready to commit to the Houston SPCA? 

Looking for a service project to help you or your troop achieve your bronze award, silver award, gold award or Eagle Scout rank?  Click here to check out a list of pre-approved projects for the shelter and click here to fill out an application to get started! Would your troop like to hold a donation drive for the Houston SPCA? Be sure to see our wish list for the items we need most at our shelter.

To learn more about the Houston SPCA, check out our website – www.HoustonSPCA.org  today!


The Houston SPCA is heading back to school!

The heat of summer may be sticking around but all of the kids in Houston are headed back to school – and so is the Houston SPCA!

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The Houston SPCA’s Community Education School Program focuses on teaching children the importance of empathy, kindness, compassion and caring for others while integrating necessary grade level state standards into each lesson plan created for the classroom. We also provide a broader scope of careers for students by relating many animal welfare working opportunities to them through our community education presentations. We frequently participate in school-wide events such as career days, health and safety fairs, environmental fairs and other community-related programs.

Storybook Reading Sessions:

For pre-K – 1st graders, we offer storybook reading sessions. Teachers can pick from our list of children’s books which includes stories about animals being rescued, how to interact with animals you just met and why animal shelters are important. Storybook reading sessions are between 20-30 minutes and can fit into any part of a teacher’s schedule.

Our current storybook collection for the classroom includes:

“Max Talks to Me” – Claire Buchwald.

Alex and his dog, Max, are true friends – the kind that share each other’s excitement, comfort each other when they are sad, wait together when parents are away, and have fun wherever they are. Alex is learning that every good relationship is a mutual one.

“Kamie Cat’s Terrible Night” – Sheila Hamanaka.

Oh no! Someone forgets to put the screen back and Kamie jumps out the window. During her misadventure, Kamie gets a glimpse of how other cats live and comes to appreciate life with kind Mr. Wong.

“Call the Horse Lucky” – Juanita Havill.

While visiting her grandmother in the country, Mel discovers a neglected horse. Moved by the sight of the rib-thin pinto, Mel starts a rescue process that results in the pinto’s being moved to a horse rescue ranch.

“May I Pet Your Dog?” – Stephanie Calmenson.

What’s the best way to meet a dog and make friends? In this book, a dachshund named Harry shows you. Harry’s advice begins with one simple rule: Always ask the owner, “May I pet your dog?”

“Buddy Unchained” – Daisy Bix.

Buddy, a lovable mixed-breed dog, is happy in a new home; he tells the story of his former life and how he was rescued and came to live with a caring family.

“KokoCat, Inside and Out” – Lynda Graham-Barber.

KokoCat, a well-loved house cat, has seen the world only from the safety of her window perch. One day, she takes advantage of an open door and runs away to explore. Once outside, she finds that life is more complicated and less enjoyable than she bargained for.

School Wide Assembly Presentations:

School-wide assemblies are best for multiple age groups and range in length from 45 minutes to 1 hour. Each presentation gives an inside look into the services the Houston SPCA offers the community.

Topics include:

“Career Day: Working with Animals” 

This program focuses on introducing students to the world of animal care and welfare. Students will learn about numerous animal-related careers, how those careers benefit animals, and what qualifications are needed for those positions.

“Animals Get Bullied, Too: There’s No Excuse for Abuse” 

This program introduces the concept of animal cruelty to students and how it relates to bullying between peers. Focusing on empathy and compassion, students will learn what animal cruelty is, what to do if they see an animal being mistreated, and how to spread the word about proper treatment of animals.

“What Are Animals Trying to Tell Us? A Look at Animal Behavior” 

This program describes what animal behavior is, how animals can communicate with each other and humans, and what to do in a variety of scenarios with animals you have just met. Students will learn the differences between animals that are safe to interact with and those that should be left alone.

“Houston SPCA at a Glance: How the Houston SPCA Helps Animals”

This program gives an overview of the Houston SPCA’s mission and services it provides to the Houston community. Students will learn how and why animals are brought to the Houston SPCA, why adopting an animal from a shelter is so important, as well as how they can help our animals from home!

In-Classroom Presentations:

In-classroom presentations are between 45 minutes to 1 hour and include full lesson plans for the teacher to use with their students. We have a variety of lessons available for 2nd – 12th grade that are either single-session lessons or project-based learning lessons.

Project-based learning is a teaching method in which students gain knowledge and skills by working for an extended period of time to investigate and respond to a complex question, problem, or challenge. Students are given the opportunity to solve a real-world problem through extended research and solution-creating projects. Allowing students to learn through action increases the retention rate of taught information. Each PBL style program provided by the Houston SPCA has lesson plans for multiple sessions and a student project with grading rubrics available.

For the Houston SPCA’s full school program curriculum, please click here.

To book your presentation, please e-mail or call our Community Education department (713-869-7722 ext. 143) today.

To support the Houston SPCA’s mission of promoting commitment to and respect for all animals, please click here.

 


Extra! Extra! Read all about these fantastic fifth-graders!

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The fifth grade class at River Oaks Baptist School has made headlines in our hearts. At the beginning of the year, for the past several school years, the fifth grade class has been challenged to collect as much newspaper as they can to donate to the Houston SPCA. Their yearly service project yields stacks of paper to help keep the animals’ kennels comfortable and clean. This year these spectacular students collected SIXTY-SIX BOXES full of newspaper! These eight amazing representatives of the class had the opportunity to visit the shelter and even get a tour as a token of our gratitude.

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And that’s not all! After learning about child labor laws of the early 1900s, all of the students in the class work with their parents to come up with house chores for which they’ll get paid, and then they donate their earned wages to the Houston SPCA. We applaud River Oaks Baptist School for teaching their students to be responsible and humane young citizens and we’re honored to be on the receiving end of their continued generosity.

Way to go, kids!

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Looking for some Summer FUN? How about the Houston SPCA Critter Camp!

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Never heard of Critter Camp? 

Critter Camp is the Houston SPCA’s day camp available during summer, winter and spring break. Each day from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm, campers ages 8-15 can come to the Houston SPCA to learn all about animals, hear from the Houston SPCA’s amazing staff, play fun animal games, create arts and crafts, and, last but not least, spend time playing with our adoptable shelter pets!

Let’s jump in and see what a typical Critter Camp day looks like!

9:00 am – Campers arrive at the Houston SPCA and begin meeting new friends, playing fun games and learning about animals.

Foster ProgramFoster care coordinator shows campers a foster kitten

9:30 am – Our first guest speaker session! Our guest speakers are staff that work in a variety of departments at the Houston SPCA. Some of our amazing guest speakers include our animal behavior specialists, animal cruelty investigators, rescue ambulance team members, foster care coordinators, and veterinarians. Each guest talks about what they do for the Houston SPCA, the educational background needed to obtain their position, stories about their favorite animal experiences, and why they love to help animals every day.

10:00 am – Lesson about animals. We have a variety of themes for our camps that include lessons about many topics relating to animals. These topics include animal behavior, basic animal care, anatomy and physiology of pets, Texas wildlife, and much more. These lessons include fun games or activities to keep our campers interacting and engaged.

Easter Seals Petting HorseTommy the Llama 110:30 am – Barn Visit! Did you know that the Houston SPCA has its very own barn where we house many equines and farm animals? Our campers get to visit the barn and meet some of our horses, pigs, goats and any other animals that might be residing there at the time. Many of these animals have been rescued from cruel situations and campers learn about the rehabilitation process the animals will go through before they can be adopted into a new family.

SPCA TShirt Toy

11:00 am – DIY craft time. At Critter Camp we love to teach our campers how to create items that can help animals. Every day we create items that can be donated to our animals (or taken home for their family pet) or that teaches them more about animals. Some of my favorites include T-Shirt Tug Toys for dogs, birdseed feeders for our native wildlife and decorated savings banks for campers to save money to donate to their favorite charity.

11:30 am – Lunch time. During lunch we put on fun animal-related movies for our campers to watch. This gives everyone a chance to relax as the day goes by so fast!

Camper getting kissesCritter Camp Chronicle Pic

12:00 pm – SHELTER VISIT!!  This is our campers favorite part of the day. Everyone in camp goes over to the Houston SPCA animal shelter and gets to play with our large dogs, small dogs and cats. Our animal interactions are in a group setting so that each animal we play with gets lots of campers to love on.

Metro K-9 visit 1

METRO Houston Police Canine Program visits Critter Camp

1:30 pm – Second guest speaker session. We have another guest speaker join us in the afternoon. They will either be another Houston SPCA staff member or a very special visitor! We work with local service animal organizations who love visiting our camps to show our campers how amazing animals can be.

Oil Spill Art

Campers create ‘oil paint art’ while learning about oil spill clean-up 

2:15 pm – More DIY crafts or game time. Our campers can decide if they would like to learn how to create new DIY crafts or if they would like to play games, play with puzzles, visit our arts stations they can do so.

2:45 pm – Snack time and parent pick-up. Campers are given a bottle of water and a healthy snack in the afternoon. Campers can choose if they would like to watch an animal video or play games / do craft activities while waiting for their parents to come.

3:00 pm – End of our busy Critter Camp day!

Sign up today for our Summer Critter Camp!

Register here: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/PageNavigator/humane_education_critter_camp

Looking for our Summer Critter Camp schedule? Look no further: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/DocServer/2015_Camp_Flyer__schedule_and_registration_info_.pdf?docID=3961 

Have questions about Critter Camp? Check out our FAQ’s: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/DocServer/Critter_Camp_Frequently_Asked_Questions_Updated.pdf?docID=3701 

Summer Critter Camp registration begins March 25, 2015!

 


Brushing up on Your Pet’s Dental Health

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February is pet dental health awareness month. To celebrate we have some of our very own smiling pups here to tell you all about keeping your pet’s teeth healthy!

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You know your dentist’s orders: Brush and floss twice a day to keep your human teeth nice and healthy. But what about your pet’s teeth?

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80% of dogs and 70% of cats show signs of oral disease by age three! Dental care is not always a priority at a vet’s office, but as a pet owner you can make it one. Having your pet’s teeth cleaned properly by a veterinarian can help prevent infections and prolong your pet’s life.

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Let’s discuss ways to keep your pet’s teeth nice and healthy:

1. Take your pet to get a dental exam at your veterinarian’s office at least once a year.

2. Start a dental-care regimen at home – ask your vet for appropriate methods to help keep your pet’s teeth clean on a daily basis.

3. Schedule a yearly dental cleaning with your veterinarian. You have to go to the dentist once a year for a full dental cleaning – your pet should too!

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Common signs of dental disease (if your pet exhibits any of these, please take them to your veterinarian):

  • Consistently stinky breath
  • Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar
  • Your pet is not comfortable with you touching their mouth
  • Abnormal drooling or dropping food from the mouth
  • Bleeding from the gums
  • Loss of appetite or loss of weight

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To find out more about pet dental health, visit these sites:

https://www.avma.org/Events/pethealth/Pages/February-is-National-Pet-Dental-Health-Month.aspx

https://community.petco.com/t5/animal-care/How-to-Brush-Your-Dog-s-Teeth/ba-p/54644

http://www.vetstreet.com/care/dental-health

For more information about the Houston SPCA, visit our website: www.HoustonSPCA.org


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Minding Your Bark Park Manners: How to make the most of your dog park experience!

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Dog parks can be an excellent way for you and your pet to get exercise and enjoy the outdoors. It is very important to know some basic facts and rules about dog park etiquette before bringing your dog into the local bark park. Most importantly, it is absolutely essential to be aware of canine body language to ensure the safety and enjoyment of your dog and the dogs around you!

Top 10 Dog Park Manners from the Houston SPCA:

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1. Make sure your dog enjoys the dog park! If it looks like he’s overwhelmed or won’t leave your side, maybe the dog park just isn’t for him. And that’s OK!

Dog Park Water Bowl
2. Know your dog… and your dog’s limitations. You may think he’s having a blast, but make sure he isn’t ruining the fun for everyone else! Some dogs just don’t play well with others.


3. Survey the crowd first! Even if the park is usually fine, there might be different dogs that aren’t the best playmates. If it looks like your pup won’t get along with the others, it’s safest to just leave.


4. Only bring your dog in the appropriate designated size areas. Even if your little dog LOVES big dogs, there might be some dogs who think she’s a stuffed toy, so she’s safest in the small dog area.


5. If you see behavior you don’t like from other people’s pets, just leave. It’s not worth arguing with a stranger. If enough people leave, or management is called, then they will eventually get the message.

6. Don’t try to break up a dog fight by yourself. If you can, spray the dogs with water. Never grab a riled up dog by the collar —that’s the fastest way to get bit! Even your own dog can get caught up in the moment and bite you.

Dog Park Man Bench
7. Keep a copy of your dog’s current vaccination records on hand, and always keep current rabies tags and registrations on your dog’s collar.


8. Children under the age of 16 should ALWAYS be accompanied by an adult, and it is generally frowned upon to bring babies and toddlers into a park full of sharp claws and teeth.


9. Leave food, treats and toys at home. These can cause competition and fights over resources.

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10. SCOOP THE POOP! Every single time! Keep a vigilant eye on Fido so you don’t miss a mess!

Exercise and socialization are vital elements of a dog’s life, and dog parks can absolutely offer both of these. However, it shouldn’t be relied on as their only form of stimulation. Be sure to take your dog for long, interesting walks and provide them with appropriate attention and affection. Many dogs enjoy and look forward to their regular trips to the local dog park. Be responsible and observant to ensure that every visit is an enjoyable one!

For more information about the Houston SPCA visit our website: www.HoustonSPCA.org


Animal Welfare Today: Why do some people hoard animals?

The Houston SPCA was recently called in to assist with the rescue of more than 70 animals from an apparent hoarding situation in an elderly couple’s South Houston home. When the pictures of animals in poor health flash across television screens and social media the natural human response is to ask why? One answer is “Hoarding Disorder.”

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According to the Mayo Clinic, “hoarding disorder is a persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions because of a perceived need to save them. A person with hoarding disorder experiences distress at the thought of getting rid of the items.” It is easy to look at the filthy conditions that these people find themselves in and accuse them of horrible things. But it is important to remember that hoarding is caused by a very real and very tragic mental illness and that those who suffer from it believe that what they are doing is right and good.

The Houston SPCA takes its job very seriously. Our mission is to promote commitment to and respect for all animals and free them from suffering, abuse and exploitation. But we would be remiss if we ignored the people who are suffering alongside the animals. Those with hoarding disorder need as much help as their pets. They are living in the same squalid conditions, usually suffering from severe physical ailments. That is why we frequently work closely with Adult Protective Services to ensure that when we remove animals, the owners of these pets receive the care that they so desperately need.

Most of these people never intend to hoard animals. They often start with just one or two that they’ve rescued or taken in. Sometimes neighbors and friends will find animals and bring them to the house. Sometimes they’ll open their home to strays. Due to the mental state of a person with hoarding disorder, they will rarely turn down or give up animals. They frequently go without food and medication for themselves in an attempt to care for their pets. But usually a lack of resources prevents them from providing proper veterinary care, including spaying and neutering. As numbers multiply they try their best to keep up, but a combination of being overwhelmed and physically unable to attend to all their animals leads to the miserable conditions we so often see.

One of the benefits of social media is that it spreads information quickly to a huge audience. But the audience can often react without fully understanding the situation, leading to quick and sometimes brutal judgment. When we share our stories of animal cruelty and neglect, it is not to invite public ridicule and scorn, but rather to educate and prevent it from happening again. We hope that by sharing pictures from  hoarding rescues, we can educate people to see the early signs of hoarding disorder and intervene on behalf of both humans and animals.

These people will rarely, if ever, ask for help because they are ashamed of what they’ve become and they’re afraid of what might happen to their pets if they stop caring for them. While they may not ask for help, you can. If you suspect a hoarding situation, report it. The Houston SPCA and its partners in law enforcement and social services stand ready to help.

Donate. Foster. Adopt. Report Abuse.  www.HoustonSPCA.org

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Further reading:

Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hoarding-disorder/basics/definition/con-20031337

Tufts University: http://www.tufts.edu/vet/hoarding/abthoard.htm#A3