RAPS – the Regional Animal Protection Society – is, as the name implies, pretty focused on animals. But RAPS serves the people of Richmond too.
Part of the reason RAPS is such an integral part of the community is because animals make our lives, families, neighbourhoods and communities safer, healthier and happier. Being around companion animals has been shown in multiple studies to improve the health of people of all ages, reduce the effects of many common and chronic ailments and, notably, speed recovery from major incidents like surgery, strokes and heart attacks.
These are all things that are intrinsic to companion animals and, as a direct result, our work in advancing the well-being of animals advances the well-being of people at the same time.
In addition to this natural positive “side-effect” of hanging out with animals, an important part of RAPS’ work is to educate the public, especially young people, about safety around domestic animals and about responsible pet ownership.
Mandy Lichtmann, the community development and volunteer coordinator at RAPS, helps deliver these important outreach messages to a whole range of audiences. In some cases, small groups come to the RAPS Cat Sanctuary or City of Richmond Animal Shelter. In other cases, RAPS representatives travel to schools and other places to bring our message to the audiences.
“We go to classrooms, often with a really kid-friendly animal, and talk to them about the benefits and responsibilities of pets,” she says. “To the younger kids, we speak about being a responsible pet owner, family responsibilities for owning a pet and making sure that everybody in the house is on board and keen to have a new family member. We really stress that animals are family members.”
For some kids, she says, it’s the first time petting an animal.
“In addition to talking about safety and responsibility,” Lichtmann says, “we speak about advocating for the animals in our community, whether it’s by putting on fundraisers or being involved with volunteering as a group project or as individuals volunteering for the older kids.”
Many Richmond schools are involved with RAPS, either through volunteerism, raising money for the animals through events like bake sales, or via animal-related school clubs.
Patients from Children’s Hospital have visited RAPS, as have residents at Canuck Place. In summer, and on school breaks, kids camps and other groups drop by to learn about the animals.
“We know that animals make people happy and healthy,” says Lichtmann. “We are glad to be able to bring greater compassion and understanding about animals to all people in Richmond – especially young people.”
Pat Johnson is communications director of the Regional Animal Protection Society, RAPSbc.com.