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Animal Welfare in North Tipperary
by Donna Ryan, St Sheelan's College, Templemore

This was a community based Action Project by the 2nd Year CSPE Class, St. Sheelan's College, Templemore. The action arose while working on Rights and Responsibilities, and there was also an environmental aspect to the topic. We chose this topic because of an article in our local newspaper, "the Tipperary Star", about a local voluntary animal organisation called "Tipperary Friends of Animals" who were critical of the County Council's poor record on re-homing impounded animals. Also, it was Animal Awareness Week. The local group interested the class because of their aims, to prevent cruelty to animals and promote animal welfare.
Through a brainstorming session in class it was decide first of all to do research on the local group through newsletters, leaflets and local papers. Next a letter was written to invite a speaker from he group to give a talk to the class. Every student was involved, from the welcoming committee, preparing the room, asking questions etc. The speaker brought her rescued dog, Belvedere, with her, which had a deep impact on the class. They saw photos taken of him when rescued, showing scars, and could see changes evident in him through love and devotion.
A letter was sent to the Council, signed by all the class, asking to have their re-homing policy improved. A petition was organised in the school, signatures collected and forwarded to the Council. A leaflet was designed by one group, giving helpful tips on animal care. Posters were also designed on the issues of neutering, re-homing and welfare, on which we focused in the project. A survey was carried out with 25 people, in the school and in the local community. The whole class was involved in the planning of the questionnaire and the evaluation of the information. Students wanted to raise funds for the local animal group as they were very impressed by their dedication. They organised a draw in the school and sent the proceeds to the group. Finally we held an animal awareness week in the school. Everything done in the project - posters, survey sheets, letters etc., was placed on a noticeboard in the school.
The response was very positive. As part of this week, two students gave a talk to third years on animal welfare. Every student was involved in the project in both class activities and smaller group or individual activities. The students learned about the enormous problems posed in the county by unwanted animals. They discovered that the only long term solution to the problem of stray, neglected and unwanted animals was neutering. It also has certain health benefits and clearly benefited the environment. The students had no knowledge of this beforehand, but feel that through the project they have become more aware, more responsible and more actively involved in animal welfare - reporting stray dogs and cruelty to animals.
The class learned a lot about the local dog pound, the improvements necessary and played their part as active citizens through their petition and letter to the Council. Many felt they would like to rescue an animal in the future and that a "dog is for life, not just for Christmas". Overall, the students felt that their attitude towards animals changed for the better. They feel an obligation to report cruelty and have great respect and admiration for the local voluntary group and the value of joining local organisations.