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!

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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.

 


Preparing Your Pets for Fourth of July Fireworks

Fourth of July weekend is here! Are you prepared to have a fun, safe holiday weekend with your pets? Here are five ways to keep your pets happy on this Independence Day weekend:

1. Keep your pet inside.

The easiest way to prevent your pets from getting lost this Independence Day is to keep them inside. If you are having a big party or just a small get-together with friends, make sure someone is always aware of where your pets are. If you know that your cat or dog likes to run out the door the first chance it gets, consider putting them into their kennel for the duration of the party or get-together.

2. Check your pet’s collar for accurate identification information.

Did you know that more pets get lost on the July 4th holiday than any other day of the year? Now is a great time to update your pet’s ID tags with accurate information. Include your name, your pet’s name and a current phone number on your pet’s ID tag. Even better, have your pet micro-chipped, which increases your chances of finding your pet if they become lost.

heat-safety-week3. Keep all alcoholic beverages away from your pets.

Independence day celebrations usually include the three B’s: BBQs, beach and booze. Keep alcoholic drinks out of reach from your pet at all times. Even a small amount of alcohol can do damage. If you suspect that your pet has ingested alcohol, call your vet immediately.

4. Keep all flammable objects away from your pets.

Charcoal from the BBQ pit. Sparklers for the kids. A fire to roast marshmallows. Keep your pets away from all types of open flames or heat sources, including BBQ pits, fire pits and even sparklers. Encourage your guests to play with your pets away from any flames.

5. Keep your pets distracted during the fireworks.

While fireworks can be fun to humans, these spectacles are just loud and sometimes scary noises to your pets. The best way to help your pets get through a night of fireworks is to distract them. Turn your television on low to help drown out any firework noise, and offer treats to help keep them busy, such as a squirrel dude stuffed with frozen pet-safe peanut butter. Give your cats a new toy to play with, or a new post to scratch.

From all of us at the Houston SPCA, we hope you have a fantastic Fourth of July weekend!

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any ailment or disease, and is provided for reference. Please consult with your veterinarian with questions or concerns related to heat safety.

Houston SPCA Summer Heat Safety Week

Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA provides the most comprehensive array of animal adoption, shelter, rescue, rehabilitation and other programs and services in the Gulf Coast area. Check out all of our adoptable animals and consider the adoption option this summer.

Thank You for Supporting the Houston SPCA’s Mission – Make a Donation!


Heat Stroke in Pets: Signs and Prevention Tips

heat-safety-weekSummertime is here and so are the scorching hot temperatures that make us all reach for that extra glass of water. Did you know that, like humans, your pets can suffer from heatstroke? In fact, being outside all day or in a warm environment can affect an animal’s health just as much as it can affect ours.

Here are some signs and symptoms of heatstroke in cats and dogs, as well as ways to prevent it happening to your pet.

If your pets have any of the following signs or symptoms, take them to your veterinarian or an emergency veterinary clinic immediately!

Signs of Heat Stroke in Cats and Dogs

  • Excessive panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Bright or dark red gums
  • Vomiting
  • Elevated body temperature
  • Weakness/difficultly moving
  • Increased pulse and heartbeat
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Unconsciousness

How to Keep Your Pets Cool this Summer

  • Keep your pets inside the house while you’re away. Your pets love the air conditioning as much as you do.
  • Always find a shaded area for your pet — keeping them out of the sun will help cool their body.
  • Avoid heavy exercise with your pets during the hottest hours of the day. Exercise with your pets outside during the early morning or late evening hours to keep them from overheating.
  • Have fresh water available for your pet at all times.
  • Be sure to use cool water, since ice water may constrict blood vessels and impedes the cooling process.
  • Place cool, wet cloths around your pet’s paws. This helps with the heat that is being released through the pads of their paws.

If you think your pet may be suffering from heatstroke, call your veterinarian immediately. It’s always important to watch your pet for any behaviors that seem abnormal. At the first sign of abnormal behavior, it’s time to act.

Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated this summer along with your pets!

Houston SPCA Summer Heat Safety Week

Founded in 1924, the Houston SPCA provides the most comprehensive array of animal adoption, shelter, rescue, rehabilitation and other programs and services in the Gulf Coast area. Check out all of our adoptable animals and consider the adoption option this summer.

Thank You for Supporting the Houston SPCA’s Mission – Make a Donation!

The information contained in this article is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure any ailment or disease, and is provided for reference. Please consult with your veterinarian with questions or concerns related to heat safety.


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!

dogsmile

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


Getting to Know Your Houston SPCA: Meet Tara, Vice President of Animal Welfare

Welcome back to our ‘Getting to Know Your Houston SPCA’ series on the Houston SPCA’s Humane Education Blog!

Today, we are interviewing one of the hardest working people I know at the Houston SPCA, our Vice President of Animal Welfare – Tara!

Humane Education Blog: Welcome to the blog, Tara. So glad you could make it! Let’s start with the basics, how long have you worked for the Houston SPCA?

Tara: 5 years.

HEB: That’s awesome! Could you describe what a typical day is like heading our Animal Welfare Department?

Tara: Every day is completely different. There is so much going on all the time. Some days I go out with the rescue team for a large-scale rescue. Other days, I have to go to court to help ensure we are keeping the animals of Houston safe. There are administrative duties that I take care of as well as the animal adoption process. It is part of our mission to make sure the animals we rescue find new, loving homes and are adopted as quickly as possible. I really help with whatever is going on at the shelter that needs me. There is no such thing as a normal day.

HEB: You must always be incredibly busy! What is your favorite part of your day?

Tara: Definitely the surprises. Periodically, I hear someone bringing an animal down the hallway in our offices and it is so much fun to see around the corner and meet the animal that is walking by.

HEB: How does it feel to work for the Houston SPCA?

Tara: It feels amazing to be a part of an organization that changes the lives of animals and humans every day. 

HEB: After a long day at work, what music do you turn on while driving home?

Tara: Anything Bon Jovi. 

HEB: Do you have any pets at home?

Tara: I have an English Bull Dog named Sherman and 4 cats named Max, Sampson, Deacon, and Pudge.

Tara Sherman Blog

Tara Sherman Blog 2

HEB: What is your favorite animal-related book?

Tara: The Velveteen Rabbit or Dewey the Library Cat

HEB: What was the most unusual animal you have worked with at the Houston SPCA?

Tara: Definitely Betsy the bear. I had the amazing opportunity to accompany Betsy on her trip to a wildlife refuge in Romania. 

Betsy Pic 4

HEB: What is your favorite reality animal TV show?

Tara: Animal Cops: Houston. 

HEB: Last question – a very important question – if you were a bear attending a picnic, what would be your ideal sandwich?

Tara: Peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Bear Eats a Sandwich on Make A Gif

Thank you Tara for taking the time to hang out with the Humane Education Blog today! We know you have to get back to making sure that all of the animals at the Houston SPCA are being given the best care possible and we thank you for everything you do.

To help Tara and the Houston SPCA staff take care of sick, injured and orphaned animals, please consider donating today! Just click here.


Avoiding the Back to School Blues – Pet Separation Anxiety

It is that time of year again when backpacks are packed, pencils are sharpened and lunches are ready to go! As students head into a brand new school year, let’s remember that you may still have some furry friends at home who will need your attention.

During the summer months, students who are able to stay at home with their pets can give them lots of love and attention. However, when those students go back to school, their pets may feel some separation anxiety or loneliness.

Some signs that your pet may be feeling a bit anxious or lonely include:

Excessive barking or meowing

Chewing or destructive behavior

Guilty dog chewing woman's shoes

Pacing 

Trying to escape from their home

Urinating or defecating inside the house (outside of the litter box!)

If your pet starts showing signs of separation anxiety, make sure to take them to your veterinarian! Your veterinarian will check to see if there are other issues that would be causing these behaviors.

To help your pets avoid the ‘back to school’ blues, here are a few tips to keep them happy and occupied:

Mental Stimulation

Cat Scratch DJ on Make A Gif

Keeping your pet mentally stimulated throughout the day is one of the best ways to overcome separation anxiety. For cats, cat trees, scratching posts and puzzle feeders with delicious goodies are great ways to keep busy. For dogs, there are many toys that will help keep them busy all day long. My favorite is the PetSafe Busy Buddy Squirrel Dude. I fill the Squirrel Dude with part of my dog’s diet (don’t want them getting too many extra treats!) and some peanut butter. I freeze this combination overnight then give the Squirrel Dude to my dog during the day. It takes a long time for the inside to thaw out and keeps my pup happy for hours. The more your pets are focused on puzzles and toys, the less they are focused on you being out of the house.

Reward Positive Behaviors

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When training your pets (Yes, you can train cats!), you always want to reward your pet for the behaviors you want them to learn. Try to avoid rewarding your cat or dog with attention or treats when they meow or bark at you. Instead, reward them when they are quiet and calm or have found something to keep themselves busy. More interactive training can be beneficial as well. Helping your pets learn how to ‘sit,’ ‘stay’ or ‘lay down’ can help when you are leaving for the day. Training with your pets every day helps to stimulate their minds and moves them toward being more confident in themselves.

Play with Your Pet Every Day

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One of the best parts of having a pet is getting to play with them! So why not play with them every day for at least 30 minutes? Everyone in the family will enjoying designated play time – your pets will have fun, your family will de-stress and everyone will bond a bit more with each other.

Exercise

Another way to help your pet be a little bit calmer while you are away is to make sure they have exercised before you leave. Taking your dog on a 30 minute walk each day before you head to school, or playing laser-tag with your cat for a while, will help them spend some of the energy they may have put toward being anxious on exercising. Exercising each day will also help keep their weight in check!

Do not Make a Big Deal Out of Leaving

If you think your dog or cat is going to be anxious after you leave for the day, try not to make the goodbye process too long. Animals can sense our emotions and the more upset you are about leaving them at home, the more upset your pets may become when you actually leave. Keep your goodbyes casual and your pet will be less worried about you being gone.

Doggie Daycare and Dog Walkers

Another option for your pet to help with anxiety is to not leave them at home – book them with your local doggie daycare! You can leave your dog in the capable hands of a doggie daycare where the staff will play with your dog, help them socialize with other dogs and feed them if needed. Another option is hiring a dog walker to come to your home and walk your dog once or twice a day. This will help your dog get some much needed exercise which can help reduce stress and anxiety.

Now your family is ready to keep your pet happy and busy all day long!

You aren’t the only ones going back to school this August – the Houston SPCA’s School Program is back in full swing with many brand new sessions available to Houston area schools. Sign-up today to enjoy a free presentation at your school from our Humane Education Instructor. For more information about the Houston SPCA visiting your school, please visit www.HoustonSPCA.org!


The Houston SPCA Summer Critter Camp Is Back!

The Houston SPCA’s Summer Critter Camp 2014 is in full swing and our campers are having an AMAZING time learning all about animals, giving to the community, what to do to help animals in bad situations, and all about the Houston SPCA. Did I mention that our campers get to play with our adorable adoptable shelter animals every day?!

During the first week of Critter Camp, we partnered with Easter Seals and had a whole bunch of brand new campers join us for a week of learning all about the animals! If you have never heard of Easter Seals before, they are an outstanding organization that helps people of all ages with disabilities in the Greater Houston area.

Our Easter Seals campers worked very hard to design their very own LEGO animal shelter.

Easter Seals LEGOS

We also had a visit from a local animal therapy group – everyone got to play with these beautiful animals who work hard to help people be happier and healthier!

Easter Seals Camper Pet Dog

We all visited the barn and were able to spend time with some of our adoptable farm animals and horses like the miniature horse below.

Easter Seals Petting Horse

The week went by so quickly and we had so much fun!

 

This year at Critter Camp we have brand new camp sessions that teach our campers about different, important animal-related topics.

Our ‘Voice for the Voiceless’ camps have been all about helping our community and making sure all animals are taken care of properly. Here are just a few highlights of this camp session:

To help our animal friends in the wild, our campers made bird feeders out of pine cones — up-cycling at its best!

Easter Seals Camp Birdfeeder

Each year, the campers love being able to express their creativity and this year we had each camper ‘re-design’ the Houston SPCA logo. I love them all so much!

Camper Artwork 3 Camper Artwork 2

Our campers wanted to make something for the animals at the Houston SPCA that would help them have fun outside this Summer. We worked very hard and were able to make brand new agility-equipment for our small dogs to play with!

Camper building agility equipment

And, of course, everyone’s favorite part of the day is playing with the animals! Each day, our campers spend time with our cats, small dogs and large dogs.

Camp Petting CatCamp Petting Dog Camper getting kisses

There is still time to sign-up for the Houston SPCA’s Summer Critter Camp, and stay tuned for updates on our other two new sessions available this year – Operation Rescue and VetCAMP!

For more information or to register for Summer Critter Camp 2014, click here: http://www.houstonspca.org/site/PageNavigator/humane_education_critter_camp