28 March 2024

Kids called on to join new animal welfare program from RSPCA ACT

| Claire Sams
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woman holding a cat

RSPCA ACT chief executive Michelle Robertson said a new education campaign is teaching people how to be responsible pet owners from an early age. Photo: Travis Radford.

Start them young – that’s the plan from the RSPCA ACT and their new animal welfare course.

Chief executive Michelle Robertson said the organisation’s new program is a fun way of supporting a serious cause.

“The younger generation is the future, and we need to invest the time into ensuring that they will be responsible pet owners,” she said.

“If we can’t bring people into the shelter, how can we bring the shelter into people’s homes?”

The result is the Sleep Out for Strays program, which will keep ACT children and teenagers busy over the April school holidays.

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While getting a new animal family member brings a chance for lots of cuddles, Ms Robertson wants kids to know it’s a big responsibility.

“It’s really important for kids to understand the consequences of not looking after an animal properly,” she said.

“For example, puppies are incredibly cute – but how do you feed them and look after them?”

The Sleep Out for Strays program includes information on the importance of microchipping, vaccinations, desexing and other small things that can have a big impact.

“We will send regular emails with videos, puzzles and suggestions for activities in it,” Ms Robertson said.

“It’s a combination of educational content and some creative play where the children can learn about good animal welfare.”

The program also invites kids to sleep outside their beds, either by themselves or with their mates (humans or animals).

“The kid gives up the safety of their own bed for one night or however many nights they want, and they sleep somewhere else with adult supervision,” she said.

“It’s about taking the moment to think about what it’s like for animals and what happens when they have nowhere to go.”

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Participants can also fundraise for the more than 2000 animals that come into the RSPCA ACT’s care each year at their Weston shelter.

“There are benefits for the kids in learning, at a young age, to be community-minded, and to learn about the joy of helping and giving,” Ms Robertson said.

“We’ve really tried to make sure this program is engaging and fun for them.”

While the Sleep Out for Strays program is heading into its first year, Ms Robertson already believes it will have a powerful effect on the Territory’s youth.

“I have to dream really big. Imagine that we live in a community where there’s no animal cruelty and everyone is a responsible pet owner,” she said.

“Even if just a handful of children find it a really valuable program and take what they learn to adulthood, it would be a successful outcome.”

The Sleep Out for Strays program will run between 12 and 27 April, although participants can register or start fundraising at any time. Registration is free and can be done online.

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