Students in the Kids Loving Animals within Shelters (KLAWS) club at Castaic Middle School returned to the Castaic Animal Shelter Friday to photograph dogs in the hopes of getting them adopted.
The “Focus on Forever” event encouraged students to capture photos of the animals with their iPhones and cameras to help the dogs find their “forever” homes in the community.
“Our goal for today’s project is to have the dogs get adopted because dogs in shelters are so sad,” said Christine Racina, a Castaic Middle School teacher and KLAWS club leader. “If people see something in the eyes of a dog they will see the soul of the dog and it will help them get adopted.”
Before the students arrived at Castaic Animal Shelter Friday, they were taught tips and techniques from Rita Earl-Blackwell, a professional heARTs Speak shelter photographer, during a basic educational course in shelter photography at the middle school Thursday.
“The training yesterday was amazing,” said Karen Gagnon, a Castaic Middle School teacher and KLAWS club leader eventually a calendar. “We want these dogs to get adopted and find their forever home.”
Earl-Blackwell taught the students to not use their flash when photographing the animals, to get eye level with the dogs, to use their squeaky toys sparingly and to offer up treats to help the dogs focus forward.
“We want to show these dogs in a really good light,” she said. “We’re going to change their minds with one photo so they think, ‘This dog could be on the couch with me.’”
Seventh grade students Megan Franco and Olivia Burk both joined the club when it began at the beginning of the school year.
“I love animals and I have a dog and I want all of them to get adopted,” Burk said.
Since its inception, the students have visited the shelter several times to read to dogs, donate blankets to the animals and decorate the shelter for Halloween.
“I loved reading to dogs,” Franco said. “They were all barking and by the end they were really quiet and it was really peaceful.”
The success of the program has caught the attention of advocacy groups throughout the country. Earl-Blackwell said her organization, heARTs Speak, wants to sponsor similar KLAWS clubs throughout the United States.
“They want to set up a program where this KLAWS program can go across the country,” Earl-Blackwell said to the group of middle school students. “You guys are pioneers of this project.”
One day, the photos the students took may be featured in a calendar, flip book project or art gallery. The club is still working out the details.
“I want the kids to keep this up,” Gagnon said. “We’re going to change the world one dog at a time.”
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_