Smithtown animal shelter partners with school

Smithtown animal shelter partners with school

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Cause Four Paws co-director Jason Fluger with his dog Brooklyn. Photo by Alex Petroski

The Smithtown Animal Shelter and Adoption Center is joining with Commack Middle School and Dr. Michael Good, the founder of an initiative called Homeless Pet Clubs, in an effort to find homes for animals. Good flew in from Atlanta, Ga., to speak to a group of about 30 Commack middle schoolers on Thursday afternoon in the school’s auditorium.

Good, a veterinarian, formed the Homeless Pets Foundation — a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization — in 1998, according to its website. In 2010, Good started Homeless Pet Clubs as an adjunct to his foundation. The clubs are meant to encourage and organize students and community members to spread the word about specific animals that are in local shelters, in the hopes of finding suitable homes for adoption.

In an interview after the presentation, Good told the story of how he was inspired to start Homeless Pet Clubs a few years ago. He was attending an event for kindergarten age students designed to answer questions about a veterinarian’s job and what it entails. After about two hours of young children telling stories about their pets, rather than asking questions about becoming a vet, Good was hit with a stroke of inspiration, he said.

“What if we could get millions of kids all over this country telling stories about animals that don’t have homes?” Good asked. “That was the foundation of my Homeless Pet school clubs, and it has worked fabulously.”

The idea for Good’s clubs is fairly simple; Introduce homeless pets to middle school, or if Good has his way even younger-aged kids, allow them to spend time with the animals and take photos, and then empower the kids to spread the word about the animals. Kids are then made aware of when an animal is adopted, and given positive reinforcement for their role in saving a life. Commack’s version of the club will be the first on Long Island, although Good is always interested in expansion.

Renee Landsman and Jason Fluger teach at Commack Middle School, but they also run Cause Four Paws, an after-school club that meets monthly to educate students about animals and how to train them safely.

“Children love animals, and I think they should be encouraged to love animals,” Landsman said. Many Cause Four Paws students were in attendance for Good’s presentation, though they were not the only ones. Landsman and Fluger hope to make Good’s vision a schoolwide cause.

Smithtown animal shelter Director Susan Hansen also attended the event. She met Good at an event two years ago, she said. One of her first actions after beginning as the shelter’s director in August was to register on Good’s website to be a shelter rescue partner.

“At the shelter we’re approached on a regular basis by various Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, youth groups and individual kids that come to the shelter and say ‘I want to volunteer,’” Hansen said in an interview. “Unfortunately a lot of them are under 16 and at the shelter you need to be older to interact with the animals. I recognized that when you exclude that young population, you’re really discounting a tremendous resource, because as Dr. Good advocates, they can promote these animals virtually.”

Hansen believes in Good’s assertion that young students and social media can be valuable assets in finding homes for animals.

“Maybe you can’t give them a home, but maybe you know someone who can,” Hansen said about the importance of including youth in the effort to find homes for animals. “Spread the word and make a difference.”

For more information visit www.homelesspetclubs.org or call the Smithtown animal shelter at 631-360-7575.