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Humane Society Kids' Club offers up-close animal experience

POSTED: December 31, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The Humane Society of Hall County gets lots of requests from area kids to volunteer at the shelter.

Unfortunately, if you're younger than 18 you have to be accompanied by an adult, said Kelley Sterner, volunteer and human education coordinator at the Humane Society of Hall County. And not every child's parent has the time to volunteer as well.

This is why the Humane Society is starting its monthly Kids' Club on Friday, to allow children who wouldn't be able to spend time with the animals a chance to learn about them, help socialize them and meet other animal lovers in the process.

Sterner said the club meets Friday for ages 7-9 years, which is known as the Critter Crew, and Sept. 12 for ages 10-12 years, known as the Animal Ambassadors. Programs include guest speakers and animal interaction. Kids also get T-shirts, enjoy pizza and make crafts.

"We're trying to come up with a program where the kids can come and be dropped off and work with the animals, but also learn about careers of working with animals, just learn about them in general," Sterner said.

This week, Tracey Schowalter of Puppy Adept Inc. will teach the kids about working with the animals and basic obedience, Sterner said. Future club meetings will include animal behaviorists, people who have careers working with animals and owners of exotic pets.

Sterner said she's hoping to keep the classes to about eight to 10 kids, and by the end of the year might even roll out a version of the program for high school students, too.

"It's trying to get something for them, since they can't come out with their parents, but where they can maybe come out by themselves and work with the animals," she said. "A lot of shelters offer these programs, and they've become so popular they do them every Friday. And that would be the goal, ultimately. But this is just to start with."

The club membership does come with a fee - $60 for four months or $100 for the entire school year - but that covers supplies. And, Sterner said, it's also a chance for mom or dad to give their kids some time with the animals while tending to their own busy schedule - or they're more than welcome to stay, too.

"People have been very interested about it," she said. "It's tough finding the time, especially on a Friday, but the reason we did that is it's something to look forward to at the end of the week."



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