I first heard about the Pet Care Trust in 2003, not long after I began working on Pet Business magazine. An organization devoted to promoting pet ownership and proper pet care, the Pet Care Trust, under the direction of John Pitts, DVM, ran a great program called Animals in the Classroom. Basically, the program offered grants to teachers who wanted to bring pets into their elementary school classrooms. To me, a newbie in the pet industry, this was one of the most exciting programs being offered by our industry organizations, as it was actively cultivating a new generation of pet owners.
Unfortunately, the Animals in the Classroom program ended in December 2006, which was a real loss for the industry. Of course, the Pet Care Trust introduced its Fish in the Classroom program the following year, but this new program didn't exactly fill the hole left when Animals in the Classroom disappeared. While it's a great program in its own right, the reach of Fish in the Classroom is somewhat limited because it centers around working with aquariums (initially, the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and now the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago as well), which provide training for the participating teachers. [I should note that the Pet Care Trust plans to expand the Fish in the Classroom to work with aquariums all over the country.]
More recently, however, the Pet Care Trust, which is now being managed by the staff of the Pet Indsutry Distributors Association (PIDA president Steve King serves as the Trust's executive director), introduced a new program that finally fills the void left when Animals in the Classroom was shuttered. Pets in the Classroom, like its predecessor, provides small grants (up to $150) to elementary school teachers who want to bring animals into their classes. What's more, grants are made available annually for the ongoing care of the classroom pets. These grants are funded by the World Pet Association.
I encourage every pet specialty retailer to learn more about the Pets in the Classroom program by visiting www.petsintheclassroom.org. Stores can help further the cause by informing local teachers that this program is out there, by offering to visit their classrooms to discuss comapion animals and their care, or by hosting class trips to the store. These efforts will not only frame you as a good neighbor, they will be a valuable investment in the future.