This time of year, Girl Scouts are most publicly linked to cookies, but what most people may not realize is that they routinely complete animal-related community service projects to earn achievement awards at different stages of scouting.
“From Girl Scout Silver and Gold Award projects that benefit animals by building community animal shelters, to Girl Scout troops pitching in to help animals amidst natural disasters, Girl Scouts of the USA always has troops committed to helping animals,” says Girl Scouts of the USA spokesman Joshua Ackley.
Below, Ackley fills us in on a handful of the cat-oriented projects that the Girl Scouts have made their own.
When Jennifer Clark of Verona, N.Y., was a teenager, she learned that new pet owners sometimes changed their minds weeks after buying their pets at the store. “It was really heartbreaking to me that people would go out and buy these animals on a whim,” she said. When Clark chose her Gold Award project, she decided to teach families about choosing animals -- including cats -- that fit their lifestyles. That was 25 years ago. Today, Clark’s decades-old Girl Scouts project is her business. She now educates children about the habits and habitats of different pets.
Helping the Helper
When Suzanne DeVaucenne of Zionsville, Ind., had knee replacement surgery over the summer, she was unsure who would take over the care and feeding of the cats at her rescue shelter, Cat’s Meow. As she recuperated, 40 Girl Scouts stepped in to make sure that her cats were fed, groomed and entertained. Volunteers from three different troops were at DeVaucenne’s home-based shelter daily, making sure the cats got the care they needed, including some vigorous play sessions.
In Littleton, Colo., an ice cream social turned into a search and rescue mission when a group of Girl Scouts heard a cat meowing inside a well. After managing to get her out, they discovered she was injured and took her to the Deer Creek Animal Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a dislocated hip. After hip replacement surgery and 10 days in the hospital, the Scouts who saved her raised money to pay for her treatment, despite the fact that the veterinarian had volunteered not to charge. Before the cat was adopted into a loving home, the girls had the chance to name her. They decided to call her Lucky.
Just outside of Greenville, N.C., The Magoo Room provides a permanent home for blind cats. Local Girl Scouts spent time there learning about how cats live with this disability and what they need in a home (not much more than a sighted cat, it turns out). The Girl Scouts went on to collect used books, CDs and DVDs to sell on eBay in order to raise funds for this nonprofit, family-run center.
Two Girl Scouts in North Ridgeville, Ohio, set out to deal with the problem of stray cats in their area, launching an ambitious Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program. The girls, Paige Cassidy, 13, and Madison Tayner, 12, trained in TNR at the Cleveland Animal Protective League, where veterinarians offered to spay and neuter the 26 cats they brought in for only $25 a piece. The girls raised money to cover these expenses and then enlisted a local animal rescue to shelter the cats while they recovered from their surgeries. “There’ll be a lot less homeless kittens this spring,” says Paige. And thanks to the shots the spayed and neutered cats were given, “The adults that we fixed will be able to live long, healthy lives,” adds Madison.