Inner city kids volunteer with animals at Sanctuary

Inner city kids from Gateway Junior Pet Advocates, a Gateway Pet Guardians program, visit Best Friends and volunteer with various animals.
By Aimee Larsen

"Our goal with the trip is to create young pet advocates in the community because they have a bigger voice than we do," says Kara Dalton, education coordinator for Gateway Junior Pet Advocates. Twelve inner-city kids from the group, ages 14 to 18, as well as a few young people from the Purina Pals program, recently spent a week volunteering at the Best Friends Sanctuary.

Gateway Junior Pet Advocates

Gateway Junior Pet Advocates is a program of Gateway Pet Guardians, which is a virtual shelter (i.e., a network of foster homes) that rescues animals in the St. Louis area. The goal of the program is to educate young people about humane treatment of animals, the importance of spay/neuter and other topics related to pets, and encourage them to become agents of positive change in their communities.

The trip to the Sanctuary

African American girl holding a small dog
Making friends

The kids’ volunteer vacation to the Best Friends Sanctuary provided them with new and exciting opportunities. In addition to spending some time away from home in a new environment, they got the chance to see how the Sanctuary rescue model differs from the traditional shelter model. Kara explains, "We wanted for them to see the difference in a true sanctuary and the rescue organizations we see at home. They are more familiar with the true ‘shelter’ scenario, where dogs are in the smaller runs, mostly inside, until adopted."

The young animal advocates spent five solid days at the Sanctuary getting immersed in animal care. They helped various animals at the Sanctuary, including cats, dogs, bunnies, pigs and horses. They learned about the Parelli Natural Horsemanship method of training and the care of and training of young pups at the Puppy Preschool. "I learned the easy way to make them sit with a treat," says Anna, one of the budding animal aficionados.

Leaders of tomorrow

When asked whether the kids enjoyed their time at the Sanctuary, Kara answered without reservation: "Yes! Very much so!" In response, all of us at the Sanctuary give them high-fives for gracing us with their passion, enthusiasm and joy for the animals.

Visit the Best Friends Sanctuary

Find out about visiting or volunteering at the Sanctuary.

Photos by Molly Wald and David Carlyon

Volunteer Stories