The Official Houston SPCA Humane Education Blog

Teaching us about our animal friends


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!

School webpage graphic

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.

 


So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare – PART 2

In the last edition of “So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare” we discussed how to get a position working in the animal welfare field after you graduate from high school.

Today we are going to talk about what to do if you decide to go to a community college, get a certificate from a technical school, or attend a 4-year college or university.

Let’s start with the community college scene –

communitys2e01-1

source: ‘Community’ NBC.com

Everyone loves the show ‘Community’ and yes community college can be a great place to meet an incredibly diverse group of people. Many of these people will have the same interest as you do – getting a career working with or for animals. You can go to community college to study a variety of topics and earn your A.A.S. degree or Associate’s in Applied Science in whichever field you choose.

Some of those fields include: Animal Care and Management, Aquarium Science, Zoo and Aquarium Science, Animal Health Management, Exotic Animal Management, Exotic Animal Training.

An associate’s degree is going to be at least a two year program but you will have to work hard. In the animal welfare field there is a lot of competition for very few open positions. You will want to work hard in school as well as get amazing (and tough!) internships in the field you are attempting to get a position in.

Spending only two years in school does have its advantages as you get to start working quickly and will have statistically less debt than those who attend 4-year schools.  There are also some disadvantages, however, as some people who only attend 2 year schools earn less income over time.

But wait, what is a technical school? 

There are many schools available to you that are called ‘technical schools’ in which you can earn a certificate that shows you have earned the required knowledge and skills to perform a specific job. For example, you can earn a certificate in Humane Law Enforcement which shows that you are fully knowledgeable in animal care and law enforcement as it pertains to animal control and investigation.

Certificate programs are great for those who have attended a community college and would like to be certified in a specific course for a position they are interested in. You want to make sure that you put full effort into all the certificate work you are doing as those courses can be completed over a few days or weeks compared to a few years.

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What are some animal welfare careers that require an associate’s degree or certificate?

  • Veterinary Technician
  • Animal Cruelty Investigator
  • Animal Control Officer
  • Human Resources Assistant
  • Computer Technician
  • Accounting bookkeeper
  • Vet Clinic Assistant

Well, I want to go to a 4-year school – what steps can I take to help me get a career in animal welfare?

Rice Univ

source: Rice University

Many (if not most) of those who want to enter the field of animal welfare will attend a 4-year college or university after graduating high school.

There are so many options to choose from that it can be pretty overwhelming to think about which school you want to go to. It is best to narrow down your options first.

  • Do you want a public or private school?
  • Do you want to stay in-state or go out-of-state?
  • How much are you willing to pay per year?
  • Do you want a large school or small school?

All of these questions will help you figure out which colleges or universities you want to apply to. Be sure to RESEARCH the available majors at each school you apply to. You wouldn’t want to apply to a school and decide to attend only to find out that they do not have a major that will help you land a career working with animals. Majors you want to look for include: Zoology, Biological Sciences, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Wildlife Conservation, Wildlife Science, Aquatic and Fisheries Science, and so many more!

OK – you have applied to college and you have gotten into one of your top ten schools! And yes, I said ten, you need lots of options open because you are not the only one applying to college – you and a million of your closest friends are all applying at the same time! You finish all necessary paperwork and you are headed off to school in the fall.

You are attending a school that has a major you know will help you get into a career working with animals. Now you need to STUDY hard and put as much effort into your school work as possible.

Also, start looking for unpaid internships during the summers as well as during your school year if you can afford the time. These internships are CRUCIAL to getting a position after college. Talk to vet clinics, the local zoo, animal shelters, dog day care centers, etc. about internships or volunteering positions. Dedicate yourself to your internship when you obtain one (keep up with your school work, too) and the experience you get will put you leaps and bounds ahead of those people who chose not to get an internship or volunteer their time.

Be active while attending your school. Join an inter-mural sports team, student government, animal rights groups, social clubs, fraternity/sorority, or other active club that will show you enjoy being a part of the community. It is always good to have lots of items to put on your resume.

Wait… resume… should I have one already?

Calm down, a resume is nothing to be afraid of. If you have applied to jobs previously you may already have a resume which is great! If not, there are many templates online you can use to create one. You are still keeping track of all of your activities, right? You started doing that in high school! Excellent! Use that list to create a ‘best of’ for yourself – your best experience, your work experience, the amazing things that you have done while in school. This is what you will be showing to future employers so they can see how well you fit in to their establishment.

Make sure your resume shows the best of yourself and has your three-four best references so your future employer has someone to talk to about your work ethic. Having references other than Mom and Dad are the best way to go – you need someone who won’t call you their little ‘sweetie’ to your future boss!

Cat in a Desk Captioned

Apply Apply Apply

During your last year of school you are going to start applying for jobs. You will probably want to do this starting in February – March of your last year of school. Some universities and colleges will have job fairs – that is great but most of them will not have any representation of animal welfare possibilities as it is a very small field. Get online and start researching places you want to work. Most applications will be online and you can apply right away! Have your resume prepped to send and a cover letter template you are able to customize based on the requirements of the position you are applying for.

Here are some animal welfare careers that recommend a 4-year degree:

  • Animal Care Manager
  • Client Care Manager
  • Volunteer Manager
  • Humane Education Manager
  • Public Relations Manager
  • Wildlife Rehabilitation
  • Game Warden
  • Park Ranger
  • Chief Cruelty Investigator
  • Zoo Keeper

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You may apply to 50 different places and not hear back – do not let this discourage you! Keep applying! You have to be PATIENT. Do not call the place you applied to – let them contact you. It can be a very stressful process but I know that all of your hard work will pay off if you practice patience and keep applying to new positions.

But what if I want to be a veterinarian? Or a marine biologist? Or a lobbyist for animal rights?

Then Part 3 of this series is for you! We will discuss different types of graduate school and how they will help you get into the animal welfare career of your dreams.

See you back soon!


So You Want a Career in Animal Welfare – PART 1

Everyone always asks me, “How did you get into working with animals?” or “What did you do to get your job?”

In this three-part series I am going to tell you the best ways to find a career in animal-welfare.

First you have to start by asking yourself if you want to work with animals or for animals. There is a pretty big difference between the two. Working with animals means you will be working physically with animals – your job will have direct contact with animals on a daily basis. Working for animals means you may not necessarily have direct contact with animals but your position advocates for animal care, rights, and welfare.

Which one do you prefer?

Let’s see where various animal welfare careers fall in the two categories:

Working With

Working For

Animal Care Attendant/Technician/Manager Humane Education Manager
Animal Cruelty Investigator Non-Profit Accountant
Animal Behavior Specialist / Manager Public Relations and Media Manager
Pet Sitter / Dog Walker Animal Rights Lawyer / Lobbyist
Zoo Keeper Client Care Manager / Adoptions Counselor
Veterinary Technician President / CEO of a Non-Profit
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Computer Technician

Some positions fall in-between the two categories as you can still work directly with animals however you will spend a lot of time working at a desk, for example a Wildlife Biologist, Marine Biologist, or Research Assistant.

Those are just some of your options for working in the animal welfare field. But how can you get one of those careers?

Start early! In High School you need to start showing that you are a responsible, mature young adult. Begin volunteering at your local animal shelters, vet clinics, and zoo. Also, if you have the opportunity, get a part-time job and start saving money!

Volunteering your time for an organization that cares for animals shows colleges and future employers that you are serious about your goals and will work hard to achieve them. Getting a part-time job will help you save money for college expenses or to start working right away after graduating from high school. Try to record any and all activities you participate in during high school to make sure you do not forget to put them on college applications and/or your resume for employment.

And volunteer or work somewhere that you have an interest – for example, those who want to work as an animal care attendant should volunteer for an animal shelter such as the Houston SPCA and if you are interested in working as a computer technician for an animal shelter, find a part-time job in an electronics shop. You will be much happier spending your time doing something you love, especially when stressed out from school work!

Kitty Graduation Cap

So you’ve graduated high school (or gotten your GED) – now what?

If you want to start your animal welfare career right away you have tons of career opportunities to choose from but you have to make sure you have the right skills – which is why you started volunteering in high school, right? Work with a counselor or teacher at your high school to draft a resume showing how much experience you have working around animals and what other important skills you have including opportunities you have shown leadership, the ability to work as a team, great communication skills, and organizational skills.

Your resume should show any volunteer experience you have, any work experience you have, what you focused on in high school (languages, arts, sciences, etc.), and what other skills you may possess. You might speak three languages, be a computer genius, or know CPR – those are amazing things and should be on your resume!

Almost all applications for employment are done online and they will ask for previous experience as well as references – this is where all that volunteering and part-time work comes in handy as you have made connections with other employers who can give you a good reference.

Consult with your counselor on how to write a proper cover letter for the positions you are applying for.

Wait…what is a cover letter?

A cover letter is a short introduction of yourself to the employer you are applying to. It should only be a few short paragraphs. In your cover letter make sure to include any skills you have that were listed as a requirement of the position you are applying to – you want to show future employers that you are capable of working in their field. Keep your list of high school activities nearby as they may ask for what you were involved in outside of school.

Some positions you can apply for right out of high school (as long as you have the necessary skills) include:

Animal Care Attendant

Client Care Team Member

Pet Sitter

Dog Walker

Groomer

Animal Behavior Specialist / Trainer

Administrative Assistant

Custodial positions

And many more!

While applying to these positions, keep a record of where you applied, when, and the contact information of the employer so you can reference it if needed.

Then, BE PATIENT – it can take a while for some employers to get back to you as competition for the positions listed can be incredibly high. Some positions may get hundreds of applicants which can take a lot of time to go through. If you do not hear back, keep finding more places to apply. Don’t give up! But try to avoid excessively contacting any employers you are trying to work for as it will not only frustrate you but the people looking at your application.

If you are finding that you are not qualified or need more education to attain the animal welfare career you desire, your next goal should be applying to and attending a community college or 4-year college/university.

In part 2 of this series we will discuss what careers are available for those who choose to attend higher education after graduating from high school as well as internships, work-study, and other things to do in college to help attain a career in animal welfare. Stay tuned!