Humane Puerto Rico: Phase II

By on May 26, 2015 with 7 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In Puerto Rico last year, two elementary school age children beat a puppy to death and severely injured a second helpless creature on the school playground. The incident is a particularly grim reminder that there are big gaps in humane work in Puerto Rico, and some truly awful consequences of our movement’s inattention to this major part of the United States. We at The HSUS are now fully committed to filling those gaps, and that’s why I am so proud to announce Phase II of our Humane Puerto Rico initiative: a sweeping animal welfare education program that will reach each and every public school student in this U.S. territory of nearly four million people.

Students from grades K-12 – 407,000 in all – will be the focus of a project we are conducting with Puerto Rico’s Department of Education. Our goal is to create a compassionate island for animals by educating children on the importance of treating animals well, and what that means in practical terms in their daily lives. Over time, we expect this program to add momentum to Phase I of Humane Puerto Rico – the effort to reduce the suffering and euthanasia of companion animals, help street dogs, and strengthen and enforce anti-cruelty laws. The government and the people of Puerto Rico have responded to this entire program with unrestrained enthusiasm, and that’s been so heartening to us.

The HSUS’s education arm, Humane Society Academy, sent staff members last week to train teachers and build humane lessons into their teaching activities. The training also provided teachers with a curriculum developed by HSA. Teachers will explain how humane issues influence not just the lives of animals, but also every member of the community. Students will incorporate these themes into their core school work – for example, by doing persuasive writing as part of their reading or language arts class  to draft letters to government officials or pet stores asking them to support adoption and rescues, or in science and health class by getting informed about the health needs of dogs and sharing notices with the community about meeting the basic needs of pet animals.The attending teachers also received an animal-welfare-themed mini library for their classrooms and every educator in grades K-6 will receive a year-long subscription to The HSUS’s Kind News magazine.

Stephanie Itle-Clark, director of learning at the Humane Society Academy, conducted the training in Puerto Rico along with another HSA staffer, Erin Comaskey

Stephanie Itle-Clark, director of learning at the Humane Society Academy (above), conducted the teacher training in Puerto Rico along with HSA staffer, Erin Comaskey Photo by Yolanda Alvarez/The HSUS

“We found incredible enthusiasm and energy among the teachers we were training—they couldn’t wait to start talking to students about the importance of kindness and empathy to animals and how it connects to broader community issues,” said Stephanie Itle-Clark, director of learning at HSA, who conducted the training along with another HSA staffer, Erin Comaskey

Our hope is that the children will also take what they are learning back to their homes and their families, increasing awareness about animal welfare in the community.

Our work with the Department of Education will continue in the years to come as we train more humane education specialists. We have also set up a scholarship fund that will provide 500 credentialing program courses for the public school teachers of Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico’s Secretary of Education Rafael Román summed up the goals of this partnership perfectly when he said this: “This is a step forward not only to protect our animals, who deserve to be cared and protected, but also our children to be far from violence. Through the teaching of compassion we will become better human beings.”

This is The HSUS’s biggest-ever humane education project in a large jurisdiction, and it’s one critical part of our bold effort to turn around the circumstances for animals and people in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. And it comes not a moment too soon.

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals

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  1. Kay says:

    My first dog as an adult was a rescue from Puerto Rico via the Humane Society of Broward County in Florida. So this is great news. Thank you!

    That being said I wish more could be done to educate our kids in the mainland US about puppy mills. We must stop the demand created by buying that pet store puppy!

  2. Pam says:

    This is terrific. I would love to see this in the States as well. All children should receive education about humane treatment of animals.

  3. Jane Chadwick says:

    As past president of the Vieques Humane Society located on the island municipality of Vieques Puerto Rico, I applaud the effort to bring education to the schools. On Vieques, a group called Juntos ( ‘together’ in Spanish) has just completed the second year of providing a fulltime humane education teacher. Juntos worked hard to develop curriculum acceptable to the department of education and continues to fund raise as the program sees no government assistance. It would be wonderful if HSUS could work alongside Juntos to provide even more education opportunities.

    • Stephanie Itle-Clark says:

      Hi Jane-this is Stephanie and I was lucky enough to be one of the facilitators for these workshops. We are definitely aware of JUNTOS. 🙂 In fact, some of their staff and board actually attended one day of the trainings and we recognized their humane educator Adora for her work. She just earned her HSUS Certified Humane Education Specialist credential and is the first in PR to do so! We look forward to continued conversations with JUNTOS. And thank you for supporting this super group!

  4. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Bravo. . .it truly is all about humane education and creating a future generation that embraces compassion and good stewardship. Just as important to implement this wonderful initiative in the States. Here in Nevada, I’ve been speaking to after-school youth groups and they are very receptive.
    Thank you for the wonderful work you are doing!

  5. Lynn Descoteau says:

    I don’t know which announcement has made me happier, first that HSU is coming to Puerto Rico or that the PR Board of Ed has signed on to accept a comprehensive island wide humane education program in ALL schools on the island! Education has always been the key to so many of the ills of society. As a part of The Hachiko Animal Federation, and a rescuer on the island, I now feel hope and support in combatting this massive problem. Our job is to daily reinforce the efforts of the teachers and HSUS/PR. Thank you HSUS!

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