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Crossroads launches new Animal Caretaker Training Program

Written by Crossroads Staff Member Betty Johnson-Simons

Recently I visited students in Crossroads’ new Non-Farm Animal Caretaker Training Program. They were celebrating the successful completion of the classroom component of the first training and looking forward to the next step—internships at seven animal shelter programs across the state. Every student was full of praise for the program and the instructor, Michelle Cantini, who brings years of animal care experience, knowledge of the field and a lot of enthusiasm to the program.

The training prepares students for careers working with companion animals in shelters, veterinary clinics, pet supply store, kenneling or pet day care programs. Students achieve certification in animal first aid and CPR, learn basic animal care techniques involved in grooming, routine health care, feeding, kennel management and obedience training. They participate in frequent field trips to animal shelters where they observe and learn from professional animal caretakers. After completing the class work, students advance to internships that include hands-on work experience at several animal shelters across the state.
There was no doubt that every student in the class was inspired by a love for animals and was determined to pursue a career that offers many opportunities for further education and advancement. Tony, one of the students, says he highly recommends the program for anyone who loves animals, and that applies to every student in the class. Red, another student, praised the instructor and said that she has motivated them to work hard and pursue their dreams of working in a field they love. Jodi, another student, said that she had never met a more patient teacher.

For these enthusiastic students, the Animal Caretaker Program is a dream come true. Most of these animal lovers are struggling with unemployment, homelessness and poverty, and over and over they said how grateful they are for the opportunity to train for work as animal caretakers. One student said, “We just want to thank Crossroads for offering this class, and we know that there are many more people here waiting for a chance to enroll.” Another student, Ron Dogg, says that he used to work with animals when he lived in Texas. “Now that I will have animal first aid and CPR certification, I know that I will be able to get a good job doing what I love most—helping animals.” Ron really wants to go back to Texas someday and feels confident that he will be successful there.

The day I visited the class, Dave Holden from the Providence Animal Shelter and Tammy Mello, a Warwick police officer, were there to talk to the students about ways they handle animal cruelty complaints. Dave and Tammy had brought along an adorable puppy from the Providence Shelter, and the students were showering the little guy with a lot of attention and affection. It was easy to see that these students love what they are doing and are eager to learn more.

This program helps Crossroads’ low-income and homeless students build on their experiences and talents and love for companion animals to forge a better future for themselves. The animal caretaker field has many opportunities for employment at all levels, and there are many certificate programs to help practitioners advance in their careers. Both the students and the companion animals they care for will benefit from this innovative program.



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