“Deck the Howls” – Kids bring holiday cheer and comfort to shelter animals with book reading and treats
This is the time of year to curl up on the couch with your pet and read a few holiday favorites to get into the holiday spirit.
But what about all those shelter animals who are spending the holidays in a place that can often feel cold and lonely?
Well, the Humane Society of Missouri had a solution for this – have adorable children come into the shelter with their favorite holiday books, and treats of course, and read to all the pets.
It’s called the “Deck the Howls” event, which happens every year as it transforms the ordinary shelter into a hallway full of love, warmth and Majic!
“We’re trying to comfort [the animals] and we’re also trying to recondition them to come to the front of the kennel to greet, to feel comfortable around people,” said JoEllyn Klepacki, the director of education at the Humane Society of Missouri.
“Deck the Howls,” is part of a year around program called, the Shelter Buddies Reading Program, that the organization has where children come from all over to read books to shelter animals outside their kennels in an effort to reduce their anxiety.
But “Deck the Howls,” is specifically for the holidays, where kids don their favorite pajamas and bring a little holiday cheer to the animals awaiting adoption by reading holiday stories to them by candlelight.
“We really wanted to find a way to invite children in our community to come into the shelter and to get involved, to connect with the animals, to see the shelter as a place of hope and healing and to know that they can make a difference in the lives of others,” said Klepacki.
It was about five years ago that the Humane Society of Missouri came up with the brilliant idea I an effort to help shelter animals become more adoptable.
And it definitely helps because it gets the animals more comfortable around humans, especially if there was any past abuse issues with any of the animals.
Not only that, but over its time, the program has proven to even help the kids with their confidence in reading to a nonjudgmental audience – a win, win situation.
It’s also super easy to join the program too. All kids need is one 90-minute training session before they’re able to read to as many dogs at the shelter as they want.
Surprisingly, many kids who join have never even stepped foot in a shelter.
“A lot of these kids have never really thought about the fact that shelters exist full of animals that are homeless,” said Klepacki. “And when they come in and they see them and they meet them, they connect with them. It develops that empathy that they have and inspires them to want to do more to help.”
Since the program’s inception, the Humane Society of Missouri has reduced the average length of stay for their shelter dogs by six days – incredible!
And get this, kids have even adopted animals after participating in the program.
“We’ve had children actually adopt animals as a result of participating in this program. They connect with the animals that they’re visiting,” said Klepacki.
The program has become so successful they’ve also expanded the event by organizing other shelters to take part in “Deck the Howls” as a launching pad to start their own reading programs.
This year, the number of shelters nearly doubled in size with over three dozen across the country taking part in the literary holiday event happening all season long. And now, staff at the Humane Society like Klepacki just want others to make a difference and help more shelter animals get adopted, GMA reported.
“It helps spread awareness. It helps get families involved,” said Klepacki. “If they would just reach out to their local shelter wherever they are and ask if they have a reading program or if there’s anything they can do to get involved, that’s gonna make a difference and it’s going to help more shelter animals across the nation. And that’s what we care about.”
So reach out to your local shelter this holiday season and ask about their reading program.
And if they don’t have one, well maybe you can bring them a little Majic by being the pioneer of one – that’s how the world starts changing – one little story at a time.
Stay up with the Humane Society of Missouri by following them on their Instagram page. Photos in this post were sourced from and are credited to the Humane Society of Missouri.