I have been passionate about animals ever since I was young. I’ve always been interested in their care such as, feeding them, giving them exercise and making sure that they’re loved. For me, animals are the best: they give unconditional love and are like “partners in crime.” I believe that animals have just as much value as humans; they are not inferior. They can’t talk like we do but they communicate with their bodies – and their bodies say everything!
Compassion in action
The first time I visited the Montreal SPCA was two years ago when we were looking to adopt a new cat. I immediately wanted to volunteer at this great animal-care centre but the minimum age was 18, and I was too young. So when my mom saw a Facebook post about a youth program at the shelter, she knew it was for me. My participation in the ENGAGE: Animal Welfare Education program is one of the best experiences I have ever had. I loved working with the shelter animals and found it very exciting.
After being in the program, I’m more passionate about animals than ever. I feel that this program connected me with animals in ways I had never experienced before. It also changed my mind about what career I see for myself in the future: I wanted to be a surgeon but now I’m pretty sure I want to be a vet!
I think the most important thing I learned from this program is how to understand the behaviour of animals. I now know how to tell what cats and dogs are feeling based on the way they behave and the signals they send. If I could, I would take the program over again and again and again.
Spreading awareness about breed bans
I have come to believe that there are things I can now do to improve animal welfare in Québec. I can spread the word and talk about it to my friends, I can put up posters in the street, and share information on social media.
In fact, for my English class this semester, I had to choose a controversial topic for a presentation. My teacher gave us many choices but I chose to speak about the by-law banning “pitbull-type dogs” in Montréal.
I felt that dogs that could be affected by the breed ban needed my help because the by-law wasn’t being talked about enough among people my age and many of my classmates had never heard about it. I think these dogs need people representing them—standing up for them and defending them.
I really think projects like the one I did on “pitbull-type” dogs can influence younger generations to speak up. After my presentation, my teacher did a class survey to find out who was for or against the by-law, and everybody had changed their minds: they were all against it! So I think projects like these educate younger people about our treatment of animals and help them imagine what our relationship with animals could be like.
ENGAGE: Animal Welfare Education is a non-profit organization dedicated to building empathy among youth. Through experiential learning with companion animals, ENGAGE encourages youth to practice the values of respect, compassion, responsibility and civic engagement.
Mahé Gougne is a Secondary IV student at Collège Stanislas. She has three cats and one dog. Her cats are named Spottey, Safira and Zelda and her dog is called Java.