Reading to Pets in Shelters Inspires Volunteers to Pursue Careers in Helping Animals
When Kiana Claro was visited by an Animal Control Officer from the Long Beach Animal Care Services department during her school’s career day in 2017, a new passion was born.
Claro, now 19, has volunteered over 150 hours at the animal shelter as part of the Long Beach Animal Care Explorer Academy. One of the contributions she’s most proud of is her painted portraits of shelter animals.
“I feel like my paintings contributed to getting the animals adopted and that was very rewarding for me,” said Claro. “I enjoy coming here and seeing the animals.”
The Explorer Academy is open to people from 15 to 20 years old, and volunteers assist with group tours, attend community events and help children make toys for shelter animals. The program accepts 30 volunteers a year and requires a one-year commitment.
Claro said she would like to become an Animal Control Officer, and this program is a stepping stone into that field.
But the Explorer Academy is just one of many volunteer programs offered by Long Beach Animal Care Services.
The Pet Literacy program, which started in 2011, allows people to read to the animals during regular business hours.
“Hearing a human’s voice soothes and calms the animals,” said Edna Sorensen, an Animal Control Officer, who’s been with Long Beach Animal Care Services for more than 12 years. “The companionship and attention help socialize the animals and prepare them for adoption.”
Volunteers can just walk in and sign in at the front desk, and readers younger than 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
Sorensen said it’s exciting when youth volunteers at Animal Care Services later enter the animal care field.
“If they become Officers, that’s rewarding because it means they learned something from the program and used it to help animals,” she said.
One such example is Sienna Stano. The 19-year-old Long Beach City College student is majoring in biology while also volunteering through the Explorer Academy program. She volunteers while balancing her full-time college course load and a part-time job at a pet hotel. Stano first learned about the program via the Animal Care Services’ website.
“My favorite part of the program is doing the laundry and giving the animals warm, new blankets; I can tell that they’re happy about it,” Stano said. “It makes me happy, and it is rewarding to see that some dogs remember me and the interactions I had with them.”
Stano said she had been considering a career as a veterinary technician but is now leaning towards becoming an Animal Control Officer.
To learn more about volunteering at the shelter or adopting, pet licensing, and low-cost spay and neuter locations, visit the Animal Care Services website.