This summer, C.A.R.E.4Paws graduated another 150 young and excited Animal Ambassadors through Paws Up For Pets, a new educational initiative that promotes accountability and compassion for animals and empathy in the community.

Seventy of the children, ages 5 through 12, attended a YMCA summer camp at Lompoc’s La Honda Elementary. The other half were children enrolled in summer camps at the United Boys & Girls Clubs’ Westside and Goleta units. C.A.R.E.4Paws has been working with these groups of kids since middle of June.

A collaboration between C.A.R.E.4Paws and United Boys & Girls Clubs, Paws Up For Pets focuses mainly on children age K-8 enrolled in afterschool programs. Altogether, 300 children have earned the Animal Ambassador Badge, or “Badge 1,” since the program launch in October 2016.

To become an “Animal Ambassador,” kids work with C.A.R.E.4Paws for several weeks, learning about topics such as responsible pet care, pet overpopulation, shelter animals, and the importance of showing kindness to all living beings. They get to interact with therapy dogs and even a therapy mini-horse named Little Star from the Little Star Pony Foundation. “Paws Up for Pets is unique in that it engages children over a period of time, which allows us to get to know the kids and talk a lot about how to be a great pet-care taker, that animals have feelings, just like us, and what to do when a pet is lost, sick or abused,” says Carlos Abitia, C.A.R.E.4Paws’ Community Outreach & Youth Program Director.

Following the Animal Ambassador award, children have the opportunity to earn more badges. For example, the Animal Advocate badge involves a tour of a local shelter followed by a creative project. Students can choose to virtually adopt and write about a shelter pet, or they can focus on the topic of how all pets are individuals and that all shelter animals have their own unique story.

At the United Boys & Girls Club Carpinteria Unit, students are now working on their shelter projects, after visiting Animal Shelter Assistance Program (A.S.A.P.), Bunnies Urgently Needing Shelter (B.U.N.S.) and County Animal Services’ dog shelter in Santa Barbara. The Goleta Girl Scout troop also visited these three shelters. Afterward, they made high-quality leashes and toys for shelter pets out of recycled materials (like Girl Scout cookie boxes), and fundraised to buy blankets, pet treats and other supplies for the shelter as well as C.A.R.E.4Paws.

Paws Up for Pets was created in response to several incidents of severe animal cruelty in Santa Barbara County and a general concern that few cruelty cases are reported, despite the strong connection between animal abuse and family violence. Years of research links animal abuse to violent behavior toward humans and shows that children who mistreat animals are more likely to act violently later in life. “When you show children how to be respectful and kind to animals, the ripple effects are endless,” says Abitia. “Children feel empowered, and are less likely to harm a pet, hurt a friend or bully a classmate. And they bring these values into adulthood.”

Poverty affects the welfare of our youth and our pets, too. In high-poverty areas, such as Lompoc and Santa Maria, more than 30 percent of adults and 40 percent of children live at or below the poverty line. And as many as 65 percent of these households own pets, according to a 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey. The good news is that Paws Up for Pets connects pet-owning families to free and low-cost services that improve quality of life for them and their animals, such as spays/neuters, vaccines, vet care, and pet food through C.A.R.E.4Paws.

To support Paws Up for Pets or for more information about the program, please visit YouthPrograms, call 805.968.CARE (2273) or email


C.A.R.E.4Paws—short for Community Awareness, Responsibility & Education—works to reduce pet overpopulation, keep animals out of shelters, and improve quality of life for pets and pet owners in need. The organization was founded in 2009 with the goal to alleviate the burden of Santa Barbara County’s overcrowded shelters and change the future for animals in this community and beyond. Its founders, all long-time shelter volunteers, looked at the reasons why animals end up in shelters and designed programs to tackle these issues. C.A.R.E.4Paws’ services include free spays/neuters for low-income pet owners, intervention programs that keep animals in their homes, humane education and bilingual community outreach that inspire compassion and accountability for animals. For more information, visit: CARE4PAWS.

The United Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Barbara County (UBGC) serves more than 3,100 children and their families among our 9 locations (four Club locations, four school sites and one residential Camp). UBGC fills the gap between school and home by providing after-school and summer programming in a safe environment where there is an opportunity to learn skills through positive reinforcement. These programs change lives in three core ways: by encouraging academic success; building good character and leadership; and teaching healthy lifestyles. For more information, visit Boys&girls.

C.A.R.E.4Paws is in need of funding for their Paws Up for Pets program. If you would like to help, please visit: PAWSUPFORPETS. Click on this link to check out their Paws Up for Pets video: CARE4PAWS.


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