Class teaches kids to care

Furthering a novel collaboration between the School of Social Work and the School of Veterinary Medicine, a group of Penn faculty and staff has launched Kids Caring for Pets (KCP), an educational venture designed to help teach local children about the responsibilities of pet adoption and care.

Community schools have shown enthusiasm for the program and the project has grown steadily throughout the past months. So far, KCP has run seminars and classes at the Penn-Alexander School, University City High School, and Hamilton Elementary School.

Preventative care is one of the main concerns for KCP. They teach children helpful measures that enhance the quality of life for the animal while reducing the burden of expensive emergency care for the owner. One pertinent example is parvovirus, a highly infectious, often-fatal bug that causes vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration in dogs. The disease can easily be prevented with an inexpensive series of vaccinations. However, once a pet is infected, the treatment can cost between $1200 and $1500, according to Project Coordinator Katherine Kruger.

To help measure the effects of the program and help tailor it for the future, KCP has distributed entrance and exit surveys to the children. Though the entrance surveys reveal significant gaps in knowledge related to pet care, the exit surveys offer hope for the future. “These children who we are speaking to today may not have all the control over pet adoption or care, but they will be the parents of tomorrow,” said Kruger.

Adults are not the only ones embracing the initiative. “The kids get so excited and enthusiastic,” Kruger said. “You can really see that a lot of them are hearing about responsible pet care for the first time. And, they are responding positively.”

KCP was originally developed by Veterinary School staff members Stephen Mehler, intern; Sally Powell, critical care nursing supervisor; and Alison Seward, behavior technician. Because of its success, new programs are set to be launched soon, including a class at John Bartram High School teaching kids about animal-related careers.

Originally published on March 20, 2003