'Collars & Scholars' Program

Coconut Telegraph


The Humane Society of Sarasota County recently concluded the pilot of its newest humane education program—Collars & Scholars. This program is a joint venture of HSSC and The Florida Center for Early Childhood, brought together by the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. The Collars & Scholars nine-week pilot program was held at Gocio Elementary School and led by knowledgeable HSSC staff. The inaugural class consisted of a small group of fourth and fifth graders selected by Jennifer Garafola, Gocio’s school-based mental health therapist. The program uses the principles of the human-animal bond to boost students’ social and emotional health. The weekly lessons were a mix of group discussion, worksheets, activities, journaling, puppets, games, and ample time to interact with the animal visitors—typically three or four of HSSC’s Pet Therapy teams plus shelter animals. HSSC drew on landmark programs like Mutt-i-grees® (a collaboration of North Shore Animal League America and Yale University’s School of the 21st Century) to develop the curriculum. The goal was to create a safe, welcoming space for children to learn about animals and themselves. Students who began the program as shy and disengaged were, by week nine, eagerly participating, sharing their thoughts, showing respect for others, and actively engaging with the animals and presenters.

HSSC Collars & Scholars Program

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