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SPCA renews its vision

A brood of ducklings were recently mowed down on a local road by a motorist who probably never even slowed down after the accident. When the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was called in to clean up the mess, they found one little duckling who was barely alive.

Unfortunately, the SPCA deals with incidents of cruelty like this, and much worse, on a daily basis which is why they have decided to implement a new educational programme designed to encourage greater animal awareness in Bermuda starting with the Island?s children.

?One of the things the SPCA has realised is that we need to focus on education,? said Heather Kromer, SPCA president. ?Traditionally, we had an inspector who would go and deal with cruelty and neglect cases, but now we want to be a lot more proactive. One of the ways to do that is to make people more aware, get into the schools and work with the children.?

To kick off this new campaign, the SPCA brought in a British animal expert from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) in England to lead educational workshops for both teachers and students.

During the week of November 8, Bel Deering centre manager of the RSPCA Mallydams Wood Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre in the south of England led training workshops for teachers, did presentations in local schools, and also spoke with SPCA volunteers at the shelter on Valley Road in Paget.

During the workshops Mrs. Deering encouraged residents to take a more global perspective on animal welfare.

?Most people when they think of the RSPCA think of pets,? said Mrs. Deering. ?They think we will be telling them how to look after their cats and dogs.

?People can find out about that themselves. They can read a book, or something. This is a train of thought. It is thinking about your behaviour more generally. It ties into environmental issues, because it talks about being a responsible citizen and your attitude.?

She said she tried to touch on the RSPCA?s four main areas of concern: farm animals, domestic animals, wildlife and animals used in research.

At the workshops for teachers, Mrs. Deering first helped local educators to define the meaning of ?animal welfare?. Then they moved on to ideas about teaching animal welfare in the school system.

?During yesterday?s workshop we had middle and secondary school teachers so I thought I?d dose them with theory,? she said. ?We also gave them activities and debate topics that they could just take away with them.

?Certainly in England teachers are overworked and they haven?t got time to say, ?oh, I?ll change everything and just do animal welfare?.

?We are trying to give them something that they can just pick up and walk away with and deliver straight away without having to spend hours planning, researching and getting things off the Internet. We also hope to give them some inspiration.?

She said the feedback from local teachers had been good.

?I guess they have chosen to go on the workshop so they are predisposed to have an interest in the topic,? she said. ?I felt very positive when I came out of the workshops. We had some good debates about things. They were asking quite good questions and were thinking about the topics.?

She said some of the teachers? areas of concern included illegal dog fighting, horse & carriage issues and the general level of animal care on the island.

?Everyone seemed to be very keen about doing some of the work that we were talking about,? she said. ?They were loaded up with resources and they were very keen on what we had to provide them with. I have the feeling that quite a lot will come from that.?

Mrs. Deering said many of the teachers admitted they had never really thought about animal welfare as it related to farming or animals used for scientific research.

?They said they hadn?t really thought that that was an issue in Bermuda, and now they are thinking a bit more broadly,? she said. ?It gave them a wider perspective on animal welfare, that it is not just about dogs and cats.

?Some of the teachers admitted they came for the venue, but left quite excited by doing the workshops,? she said. ?They had become energised. That was quite promising to take away from that.?

Mrs. Deering said even if students didn?t buy into the SPCA?s theories on animal welfare, or simply didn?t have the power to implement the ideas about animal care at home, they were still being empowered by the information.

?Even if we just give them information, that is a powerful thing,? she said. ?Even if they don?t take our ideas on board, at least they have the opportunity to learn about them.?

She said animal welfare impacted everyone even if they didn?t own a pet or run a farm.

?It is a difficult thing,? she said. ?A lot of people don?t necessarily interact with animals on a daily basis, so they might say that animal welfare is irrelevant to them. They might say, ?I?m not a farmer. I don?t have any pets?.

?I think through looking at animals as a topic has an impact, whether it is on litter on the ground, responsible fishing behaviour, or even buying free-range eggs in the supermarket. Even something like that can make a difference. It is about making choices.?

Mrs. Deering?s background at the RSPCA began in education. The Mallydams Centre manages 55 acres of woodland reserve, has a residential animal welfare education programme, and runs a wildlife rehabilitation centre.

Mrs. Kromer said she was delighted to have Mrs. Deering on the Island. ?This is the first ever for the SPCA, so we are quite excited about it all,? she said.

After the workshops were over, Mrs. Kromer said everything had gone very well.

?The week of animal welfare education was most successful and represents only the beginning for the SPCA in working with Bermuda?s teachers to establish an animal welfare curriculum in the schools with the goal of creating animal friendly schools,? she said.

?We are grateful to the RSPCA who made the workshops possibly by sending one of their top education officers to Bermuda and by providing some great classroom materials for our teachers. We were even able to give copies of a book written by Bel Deering to each of our workshop participants and I understand that Bel was busy signing copies after the workshops.?

Mrs. Kromer said Mrs. Deering?s knowledge, enthusiasm and creativity were an inspiration to the SPCA.

?Clearly she has a wonderful gift of communicating and teaching and we certainly benefited from having someone with her qualities to help us begin our work with the teachers and the children,? said Mrs. Kromer.

The SPCA also plans to send staff members into local nurseries and schools to talk about animal welfare, and to bring children into the shelter for tours. The SPCA has a number of educational videos available, and they also recently started producing a newsletter for children.