Austin Pets Alive! has long been known for innovating, collaborating, and sharing our knowledge of how to save animals’ lives.
But animal welfare is also about humans—the humans who love and own pets, and the humans who work in animal shelters. That’s why we are so thrilled to introduce Pet Pals, our brand new program for at-risk and vulnerable working-age youth to participate in an 8-week paid internship!
The interns, who are between 16 and 21 years old, are learning the ins and outs of shelter management, and gaining the necessary skills and experience to work in animal sheltering—including at Austin Pets Alive!.
Nine interns form our inaugural class. Starting on February 4, every Saturday they are meeting at APA!’s Town Lake Animal Center campus for four hours to explore the world of animal welfare and learn important professional skills.
Each session includes a lesson and/or training, group discussion and activity, one-on-one mentoring, lunch and refreshments, and walking and playing with animals.
The program also involves resume building, mock interviews, and “building up all those interview skills that a young person probably usually doesn't have access to before they start looking for a job,” says Alexis Telfair-Garcia, APA!’s Social Work Program Development Manager—and one of the country’s very first social workers on staff at an animal shelter.
“Pet Pals gives us and our community an urgently-needed opportunity to close the gap between human and animal services, and develop the next generation of animal welfare leaders,” Alexis says. “We hope, and expect, that this progress won’t stop in Austin, either—but that animal shelters in other communities will start Pet Pals programs of their own.”
Social work students from the University of Texas and St. Edward's University serve as mentors for the Pet Pals interns, along with Austin Pets Alive! volunteers.
Dr. Ellen Jefferson, President and CEO of Austin Pets Alive!, says her excitement for Pet Pals is in part due to engaging the interns in the urgent work of saving the lives of cats and dogs—and it’s also about helping these young animal lovers realize their dreams.
“One intern told us she’s planning to major in animal science to become a veterinarian, and believes this program can help her get there. Another said they were moved to participate by the death of a beloved dog, and wanting to save the lives of other animals in this pet’s honor,” she says.
“Pet Pals will open doors and new paths for our interns, and change the lives of the cats and dogs who they touch with their work. We’re so proud to be part of the Pet Pals participants’ journey to do great things for people and pets.”