Caring Paws

Caring Paws is a humane education program located at our R.W. Brown Boys & Girls Club. Caring Paws offers a small zoo with a variety of animals including rabbits, guinea pigs, and pet rats.

School-age youth have weekly opportunities to visit this zoo in small groups, where they gain experience with the animals by holding, petting, grooming, and feeding them. Youth may also assist with cleaning and other tasks related to animal care. Through their participation in Caring Paws, youth learn about animals’ needs and responsible pet ownership, in addition to developing compassion for the animals. For many of the youth, spending time with the animals is therapeutic.

In the Early Learning Center, the Caring Paws Coordinator visits each classroom once a week with one animal and a book. Like the school-age youth, these children learn about the animals and their needs while petting, brushing, and feeding the animals. These younger children visit the zoo a few times a year.

"One of our children, now 7 years old and in first grade, had a lot of trouble over the summer with frequent meltdowns and tantrums. He’d often have conflicts with other kids or with counselors, but he was always an excellent helper in Caring Paws," described Jessica, Caring Paws Coordinator. "He loved helping me sweep the floor at the end of the day, and strives for excellence in the Zoo. In fact, he expressed disappointment if it was time to leave Caring Paws (to go home at the end of the day, for example) and he hadn’t finished getting every single thing off of the floor. I loved telling counselors about this kid’s hard work, patience, and care in the Caring Paws animal room, because it was a side of him that they didn’t necessarily always get to see."