This animal shelter allows kids to read to orphaned dogs.
It’s heartbreaking to think of the many animals awaiting adoption, but a Midwest shelter has found an inspiring way to make dogs more likely to find their forever home. The Humane Society of Missouri recently started the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, which is a volunteer opportunity for kids who want to come and read books to dogs in need of a little extra love.
The whole point of the Buddies program is to help animals become more comfortable with strangers so they’re more likely to get adopted. Kids ages six to 15 are trained on how to interact with dogs, including how to read body language to tell if a dog is exhibiting signs of stress or fear. The volunteers are then encouraged to sit and read to the dogs who show signs of shyness or hyperactivity, offering a treat when the dogs decide to calmly approach them.
Program director Jo Klepacki tells animal advocacy site The Dodo that they wanted to find a way “to help our shy and fearful dogs without forcing physical interaction” on them. She says, “What this is also doing is to bring the animals to the front in case potential adopters come through. They are more likely to get adopted if they are approaching and interacting, rather than hiding in the back or cowering.”
The program launched last Christmas and is now available on a monthly basis. Once a child has completed ten hours of supervised training with the animals, they’re welcome to come back with their parents and read to dogs any time. Not only does it benefit the animals, but Klepacki says it’s a positive thing for the children too. “It’s encouraging children to develop empathy with animals,” she says, “They’re seeing fearfulness in these animals, and seeing the positive affect they can have… That helps them better connect with animals and people in their lives.”
So far, sign-ups for the program have been “through the roof,” and Klepacki tells The Dodo she wants to expand the it to include other animals, like cats, and to other shelters across their state. It’s an ingenious way to help animals who are waiting to be adopted, and it’s kind of hard to believe there aren’t already programs like this in place all over the country. I mean, what could possibly be sweeter or more beneficial?
According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.9 million dogs enter shelters each year, and roughly 1.4 million of them get adopted. Many of them are strays that eventually get returned to their owners, but of the ones who aren’t, nearly 1.2 million don’t find homes and end up being euthanized. Anything that helps improve a dog’s chances of finding a home is a huge benefit to these animals, and this program helps ensure they’re loved and nurtured while they’re waiting, as well. Every dog deserves a safe, permanent home, and thanks to Shelter Buddies, more and more dogs will finally get one.