KLAWS returns to Castaic Animal Shelter for ‘Back to School Bash’

Jessica Bonsness, 12, left, and Ashley Yomtob, 12, right, read books to a dog named Latte during the KLAWS Bark for Books event at the Castaic Animal Shelter on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Kicking off the school year with one of the largest events yet, Castaic Middle School’s Kids Loving Animals Within Shelters (KLAWS) Club returned to Castaic Animal Shelter Friday to read to the shelter’s animals.

The Bark for Books “Back to School Bash” brought students of all ages to the shelter who were ready to sit next to animals’ cages and offer treats to the shelter’s dogs and cats.

“I’m so excited, this turnout is beyond amazing,” said Karen Gagnon, a Castaic Middle School teacher and advisor of the KLAWS Club.

Gagnon began the club a year ago with former Castaic Middle School teacher Christine Racina.  The students adopted the Castaic Animal Shelter as the club’s primary mission to support the needs of the shelter and to educate students of the responsibilities of owning an animal.

“My goal for the club was to build a bridge between the school, the community and the shelter,” Gagnon told The Signal last year. “Being a teacher and being a rescuer are my two passions, and to bring them together is incredible.”

With their involvement in the club, Gagnon hopes her students learn to become compassionate and look beyond themselves.

Since its inception, the club has taken off and hosted a Halloween event at shelter, photographed the shelter’s animals to help them get adopted and welcomed celebrity trainers to its campus to educate students.

The myriad of events is what brought eighth grade students Ellie Dobs, Kate Burk and Emma Tisdell back to the KLAWS Club this year.

“I really liked the photography even because I had a lot of fun and I enjoy photography,” Dobs said.  “I just want to help the dogs.”

Tisdell also enjoyed the photography event because it taught her new camera skills that she could use during her time on the school’s yearbook staff.

“I’m in yearbook and getting the chance to learn new things with the camera was a great experience,” she said.  “I got close to other friends because of this club.”

However, the main reason the students rejoined the KLAWS Club was because they love helping the shelter’s dogs and cats.

“I come for mainly the dogs because they’re all so cute and they all need a home,” Burk said.

Friday’s event also included some famous faces with appearances from HeARTspeak Animal Photographer Rita Earl-Blackwell, Meghan and her dog Gertie from Bubba’s Crew, Cinimon Clark of Animal Planet’s “Pit Bulls and Parolees” and Dog the Bounty Hunter Celebrity Impersonator “K-Nine.”

Kevin Gilger, AKA “K-Nine,” a local Dog the Bounty Hunter impersonator, feeds a treat to a dog at the Castaic Animal Shelter during the KLAWS Bark for Books event on Friday, Sept. 22, 2017. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

“K-Nine,” or Kevin Gilger of Castaic, read an excerpt from “Everything Dog” to the crowd of students to kick off the Bark for Books event.

“He heard what we were doing, loved it and wanted to come out and support us,” Gagnon said.

Clark, a trainer for Animal Planet’s hit show, also provided the students with some tips to approach dogs that may be nervous or stressed out in their kennels.

“I want you to be mindful about how you approach them, respect how you feel and think about them,” she said.  “A dog in a shelter, they know they’re in a pickle.  Every time they see a human they get excited.  They need to understand that they can relax around humans, which helps them get adopted.”

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On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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