Double Delight for Shelter Education Team

Prestbury Library collect the David Vaisey award from Edward Gillespie and War Horse author Michael Morpurgo.

The Education Team here at the Shelter have had a busy few months, and their hard work and creativity were recognised recently with two fantastic awards.

Firstly, at Cheltenham Literature Festival, the ‘Paws for Reading’ project won the David Vaisey Prize.

The David Vaisey Trust recognises and rewards outstanding initiatives by public libraries in Gloucestershire which result in more people reading.

Last year we were approached by Prestbury Library to work in partnership and trial an assisted animal therapy program called ‘Paws for Reading’. Every alternate month we take a rescue dog for the students of Ridge Academy School to practice reading skills to, activities included vocabulary worksheets, word searches, a rhyming basket, literacy dominoes and mindfulness colouring. In the other month a small group of students would visit the shelter to practice their reading skills to our rescue cats.

Reading to animals offers the opportunity for students to improve their reading accuracy, speed, comfort and confidence. Another added benefit of the program is that the animals in the shelter are gaining socialization and companionship throughout the reading sessions.

Following on from the David Vaisey prize our HALT Project won a Spotlight Prize at the Impact Awards hosted by Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. (OPCC)

The award ceremony is designed to recognise the outstanding work of officers, organisations, volunteers and members of public, who all work to make Gloucestershire a safe place to live. The OPCC has been funding our Humans and Animals Learning Together for a few years now, allowing us to offer places to at risk young people, with the aim of helping them integrate and perform better in mainstream education. The courses have always received fantastic feedback and are known for their ingenuity and success, but this is the first time the hard work has been publicly recognised.

The awards were held at the Doubletree Hilton Hotel and attended by Shelter Manager Pete Newcombe, Dani, Deb and Erica from the Shelter Education Team with Claire representing our Trustee Board. Dame Janet Trotter (The Lord Lieutenant of Gloucestershire) and Martin Surl (Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner) presented the award.


Animal Day Ingenuity Entertains The Dogs

Erica with the IFAW blankets

Supporters at Cheltenham Firm DMS recently donated a large number of fleece blankets to help us keep the animals warm through the winter. The blankets were originally for one of their clients, IFAW, who kindly agreed that they should be put to good use once they weren’t needed any more.  The animals have been loving them but our Education Team have also put a couple to an ingenious new use…

As part of the Animal Days we offer for children during the school holidays, we always have a craft activity. In the past we have created treat tubes for small animals or catnip toys to drive the cats wild. This half-term though the kids have been working on something special for the dogs. Using strips of material and some cut up floor matting they are able to make snuffle mats, brilliant feeding toys to keep the dogs entertained in their kennels.

Modelling the finished snuffle mats

The children have been weaving and tying, choosing the brightest colours and making each mat different, ready for their favourite pooch. Once finished, the mats are placed in kennels and sprinkled with dry food or treats before the dogs get to search them out. Treats get lost in among the weaves so the dogs are using their noses and brains as well as mouths to feed, and it’s this kind of mental stimulation that we use regularly to reduce kennel stress and make meal times more interactive.

Education Officer Erica said “the kids really enjoyed this project, it was much more colourful and tactile than working with toilet rolls! The snuffle mats are really popular with the dogs and some of the children will be making their own at home for their pets.”

Barley enjoys treat time with his new snuffle mat

Summer Half-Term Animal Days Available To Book

Summer half-term Animal Days are now available for booking. CLICK HERE and find your session in the list.

Click on your preferred session and follow the instructions and please have your payment method to hand. Please remember to put your child’s first name and last name on the form where requested, as we require these details.

For a reminder of the dates and sessions, as well as for more details of what is covered in the ‘Dog Session’ and ‘Small Animals and Cats Session’ please look at our ANIMAL DAYS page.

For parents booking children on to two consecutive sessions (morning and afternoon) please note that there will be no lunch break, due to sessions running back to back. Instead there will be two 15 minute breaks (one during the morning session and one during the afternoon session) where we recommend your child brings a snack and a drink.

If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to get in touch either email or telephone 01242 548772.

We look forward to seeing you all very soon!

Summer Half Term Animal Days

Our new-look Animal Days will launch this May!

Sessions will now be three hours long and  tailored to either dogs or small animals and cats. This will allow for a more structured and in depth educational experience while ensuring maximum time with the animals.

The ‘Dog Session’ Animal Experience includes the opportunity to gain some hands on experience with dogs in the rescue environment. The children get to create a dog specific craft or enrichment item, learn about how to safely interact with dogs and understand dog behaviour, as well as experience kennel cleaning and partake in a dog walk/training activity.

The ‘Cats and Smalls Session’ Animal Experience includes the opportunity to gain some hands on experience with cats and small animals in the rescue environment. The children get to create a cat/rabbit specific craft or enrichment item, learn about how to safely interact with cats and small animals and understand their behaviour, as well as experience small animal cleaning and partake in a small animal handling and cat fussing.

Most days will see two different sessions and children may attend both if spaces are available at the time of booking.

Tuesday 29th May: Animal Experience Dog Session (9am-12pm) £18 All Ages 5-15 year olds

Tuesday 29th May: Animal Experience Smalls and Cats Session (12pm-3pm) £18 All Ages 5-15 year olds

Wednesday 30th May: Animal Experience Dog Session (9am-12pm) £18 Older Children 11-15 year olds

Wednesday 30th May: Animal Experience Smalls and Cats Session (12pm-3pm) £18 Younger Children 5-10 year olds

Thursday 31st May: Animal Experience Dog Session (9am-12pm) £18 All Ages 5-15 year olds

Thursday 31st May: Animal Experience Smalls and Cats Session (12pm-3pm) £18 All Ages 5-15 year olds

Friday 1st June: Animal Experience Smalls and Cats Session (9am-12pm) £18 All Ages 5-15 year olds


Please ensure you book as soon as possible to avoid disappointment, as we limit each session to 10 children and places are taken very quickly.

Education Update

picture: Banjo out and about visiting before he was rehomed this week

Last week was a busy one for the education team here at Cheltenham Animal Shelter, as Gina explains…

On Tuesday we visited Hartpury College campus to take part in their Big Careers event. We spent the day manning our information stall where we gathered lots of interest from prospective volunteers and students looking for work experience. We answered lots of questions regarding careers in animal rescue and which roles exist alongside the practical care roles. Myself and Erica were able to provide lots of first hand experience in this area, as we both began our careers as volunteers and have now progressed in to the education department. Many people believe the only career option for animal enthusiasts is Veterinary, however there are lots of jobs that either work directly with animals or alongside animals which students may never have thought about such as fundraising, events coordinating, social media and marketing, and even education.

On Wednesday we continued our community work with a visit to Dowty House Care Home, a new home for us. We try to visit local care homes on a regular basis with suitable animals for the residents to enjoy. On Wednesday we took two of our rabbits, Dolly and Jess, to spend some time being fussed and petted by the Dowty House residents. Both rabbits were exceptionally well behaved and seemed to enjoy the experience just as much as the residents did!

Benny and his snuffle mat

Benny and his snuffle mat

Thursday we visited Gotherington Primary School with shelter dog Benny to deliver a talk about safety around dogs. Benny behaved impecabbly in front of the class of 31 children aged between 4 and 5 years. We demonstrated how best to approach and greet a new dog, as well as the best ways to interact with dogs that you know well. Benny showed that some dogs love to climb into the laps of people they know, even when they are a little bit too big! All of the children in the class had organised their own donations to the shelter, which we are ever so grateful to receive. The children were fantastic and incredibly attentive to both Benny and our presentation. We hope they enjoyed listening to the talk as much as we enjoyed giving it!

To finish the week we gave another talk and tour at the Shelter to a group of adults. This 2 hour talk explored the responsibilities that we have as pet owners for dogs, cats and small animals. We looked at our legislative and moral responsibilities for our animals, and how we can make their lives as enjoyable as possible.

This week we have our February half term Animal Experiences and Animal Days, which we are all very excited about as the start of Animal Days means spring and summer are just around the corner!

CAS Launch “Paws For Reading”

We recently visited Prestbury Library for the launch of our new initiative ‘Paws for Reading’; a partnership between the Shelter & Prestbury Library which allows children with low reading confidence the opportunity to improve with a reading assistance pet. The children read out loud to animals instead of teachers or parents, which allows the freedom to relax and enjoy the experience without the pressures of expectation.

Next month we will be arranging for a few children to pay a visit to the Shelter to meet some of our animals, and they will sit and read to the cats in our rehoming block. It will be great for the cats to be close to young people and get used to them, as much as it will benefit the children with their reading skills and confidence.

We hope this is the beginning of a long and successful relationship with the library, and look forward to seeing the children and hearing them read again soon.