In order for children to think critically, make decisions, and behave in a humane fashion, they must develop a certain set of cognitive and socio-emotional capabilities. Children must be able to understand another’s experience before they can develop the emotional capacity to empathize. Only when that happens can they develop a genuine concern for the welfare of others and a willingness to act on this concern. Children often experience a natural affinity for animals – one that researchers find begins in infancy. Research demonstrates very tangible benefits to children who form bonds with companion animals. These children:
Now in its tenth year of operation, the PET program stresses the responsibilities, joys, and values associated with taking care of a companion animal. Lessons emphasize animal care, compassion, animal behavior, overcoming fear of animals, and safety around animals. Through the use of stories, discussions, and projects – and, sometimes, a visit to SAVE – the students begin to recognize the importance of treating all animals with respect and care, and to appreciate that their needs are very similar to our own. They look forward to seeing a shelter dog or cat each week, and as they learn to develop empathy for our animals, their ability to show kindness to each other increases.
SAVE partners with diverse schools and community institutions in the greater Princeton area to host PET. PET serves approximately 200 children in the full curriculum and nearly 1,000 in total. Students range in age from 3 to 12. Full-curriculum partners include: The Rock Brook School, Skillman; The Princeton YWCA preschool; The Princeton YMCA preschool, Princeton; The Princeton Jewish Center preschool, U-NOW Day Nursery, Princeton; and Family Transition Support Services after school program, Hamilton. Single visit participants include: The Montessori School, Plainsboro; Orchard Hill Elementary School, Skillman; Littlebrook Elementary School, Princeton; the afterschool program at the Princeton Jewish Center, Princeton; Girl Scout troops in Princeton and West Windsor; Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, Princeton; the summer camp program at Wilson Elementary School, Trenton; and the summer camp program at the Princeton YMCA. SAVE is pleased to offer one-time presentations to schools and community organizations.