Kids against animal abuse |

Kids against animal abuse

Jill Darby

South Tahoe Middle School eighth-graders visited Al Tahoe Elementary School Wednesday to share a lesson in humane values with Jenny Dickinson’s second- and third-grade class.

Each student in Barbara Cloutier’s Advancement Via Individual Determination class created a book about animal abuse, dedicated to, and featuring one of, Dickinson’s students. The project is part of the humane education program through the Lake Tahoe Humane Society and Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The middle-schoolers teamed with younger kids in a mentoring fashion to present the books and work on reading skills.

Michael Massengale, 13, wrote “Eduardo’s Cat” for 8-year-old Eduardo Gonzalez.

“If we teach kids not to be mean to animals then it will eventually teach them as they grow up not to be mean to people,” Massengale said. “Because it’s been proven that some people who abuse animals end up abusing people. It’s a cycle.”

Eighth-grader Jessica Shultz wrote “Karley and Shadow,” for Karley Cobarruvias.

“I wanted to teach her that animal abuse isn’t good and it can lead to even bigger problems,” Shultz said. “The dad was hitting the dog in my book and then he started hitting the mom and there was a cycle of abuse. It starts out really small and it can lead to something bigger.”

Dawn Armstrong, executive director of the Humane Society and SPCA, said the goal of the program is to create awareness, which leads to compassion and kindness, and eventually action on behalf of animals.

“It’s youth teaching youth,” Armstrong said. “The (elementary school) kids look up to the older kids. They imitate good behavior just like they imitate bad. They look up to the (middle-school) kids and it’s cool to be kind to animals.”

Armstrong said it is important to educate children at a young age about the proper treatment of animals.

“These are the parents of tomorrow, the pet guardians of tomorrow,” she said. “We are now using the word guardian instead of owner.”

Al Tahoe student Ricardo Diaz said he learned a lot from Jesus Tapia’s book “Animals are Your Friends.”

“I learned not to abuse animals and to give them shelter and give them fresh food and stuff so they don’t die,” Diaz said.

Tapia, who spent part of the morning helping Diaz with classroom reading, explained his intentions in writing “Animals are Your Friends.”

“I was trying to say to Ricardo that if he has animals he should take care of them and respect them,” he said. “He should remember to give them fresh food and water every day.”

Armstrong said Cloutier’s class is participating in a pilot program which is being expanded to other schools.

“Sue Pritchett, humane educator for the Humane Society and the SPCA, developed the concept and regularly coaches the students who are involved,” Armstrong said in a written description of the program. “The students themselves select the animal welfare topics to be developed in various forms – posters, books and other media. Topics include environmental concerns as well.”

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