In order for children to think critically, make decisions and behave in a humane way, they must develop a set of cognitive and socio-emotional capabilities. Children must be able to cognitively understand another’s experience before they can develop the emotional capacity to empathize. Only when a child masters the capacity to empathize can he or she 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:
Now in its sixth year of operation, the PET program stresses the responsibilities and values associated with taking care of a companion animal. Lessons emphasize animal care, animal behaviors, overcoming fear of animals, and animal safety, teaching children to become more compassionate about animals and each other. Using companion animals as a bridge to awareness of other species, the program teaches compassion for wildlife and the environment.
SAVE partners with diverse schools and community institutions in the greater Princeton area to host PET. Students range in age from 4 to 12. PET serves over 200 students in the full curriculum and nearly 1,000 total. Full-curriculum partners include the Preschool at the Greater Trenton YMCA, Family Transition Support Services; Valley Road Childcare Center; Rock Brook School; Slackwood Elementary School and the Lawrence Community Center. Single-visit participants include Community Park School, Johnson Park School, The Montessori School in Plainsboro, Princeton Academy and Washington Elementary School. SAVE is pleased to offer one-time presentations to schools and community organizations.