A Grade 2 student at Claridge Primary shows eagerness to answer question about pet wellness during a visit to the Nassau school by a local representative of the Washington, D.C.-based Pet Food Institute and BAARK, Bahamas Alliance for Animals Rights and Kindness, a non-profit organization run entirely by volunteers.

Rain that forced a lesson about caring for animals into classrooms from a planned courtyard assembly did little to dampen the spirits of some 60 students who could not get enough of petting the pets and learning surprising facts about why some of their own favourite foods are dangerous for their four-legged friends.

The session was courtesy of BAARK (Bahamas Alliance for Animal Rights and Kindness) and a local representative of Washington, D.C-based Pet Food Institute (PFI), an association that includes 95% of all pet food manufacturers and is committed to education and awareness of the importance of pet nutrition and wellness.

Shelley Hardman and Jonathan Hernandez, both of locally-based BAARK, and a local PFI shared the sessions at Claridge Primary in Nassau along with high energy Grade 2 students and two well-behaved dogs.

“Students learned what are good and bad foods for pets,” said PFI representative Olivia Dorsett. “We explained why foods like grapes, cookies, chocolate and raisins might be yummy for adults, but could be harmful to pets. Our food, not theirs, we explained and provided them with a hand-out listing the dangerous foods so they could share with others in their family or neighbourhood.”

In addition to what to feed pets, students learned the importance of flea and tick prevention, safe water tips, what to do when you meet a new dog, how to approach an unfamiliar dog, how to tell if a dog is safe to approach, and how to pet them, including initially with a balled up fist to keep fingers safe, allowing it to sniff the stranger before opening the palm of your hand.

“Shelley and Jonathan also demonstrated how a child should stand with arms folded, head up if a strange dog approaches and they are a bit nervous, noting that running away will only make the animal chase them,” Dorsett said. “Students saw photos of dog expressions and body language to help them gauge whether it would be better to walk away or to safe to approach. There was a lot to learn to ensure that going forward interaction between dog and child, teacher, parent or friend would be calm and friendly and the students – and teachers – seemed really eager to take it all in.”

The Claridge Primary visit is one of an ongoing series of school visits by the local organization and reps for PFI Caribbean which covers The Bahamas, Jamaica, Turks and Caicos and Trinidad and Tobago. PFI is celebrating its 60th anniversary of striving to improve pets’ lives through wellness and pet owners’ education.

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