Let’s Paws event spreads men­tal-well­be­ing mes­sage

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - – Lotte Reiter

A unique chance for peo­ple to share a cud­dle with a cat or pat a puppy has helped raise hun­dreds of dol­lars for pet wel­fare and aware­ness of the well­be­ing ben­e­fits of an­i­mal com­pan­ion­ship.

As part of a Lead­er­ship Wim­mera 2019 Re­gional Lead­er­ship Skills Pro­gram, five as­pir­ing trail-blaz­ers com­bined skills with a range of com­mu­nity or­gan­i­sa­tions and busi­nesses to cre­ate a Let’s Paws Day.

The free event, at Hor­sham’s Weir Park on Satur­day, of­fered peo­ple the chance to in­ter­act with Hor­sham PAWS vol­un­teers and animals up for adoption, as well as rep­re­sen­ta­tives from Grampians Com­mu­nity Health.

A raf­fle, do­na­tions and a Ro­tary Club of War­rackn­abeal sausage siz­zle also helped raise more than $300 for Hor­sham PAWS on the day.

ACE Ra­dio an­nounc­ers Holly King and Kaycee Bould, mem­bers of the Re­gional Lead­er­ship Skills Pro­gram with Rhi­anon Plush, Jess Kos­chitzke and Jonathan Starks, said Let’s Paws aimed to share an idea of im­proved men­tal well­be­ing through an­i­mal in­ter­ac­tion.

Whether a dog, a cat or a fish, Ms Bould said animals were more than just ‘a pet’ for many peo­ple – they were a fam­ily mem­ber that could have pro­found ef­fects on a per­son’s men­tal health.

“Let’s Paws was a project for our Re­gional Lead­er­ship Skills Pro­gram. We had to come up with an event where skills like teamwork, com­mu­ni­ca­tion and prob­lem solv­ing came into play. The re­sult was a pet com­pan­ion and well­be­ing day,” she said.

“We did a lot of re­search and through talk­ing to peo­ple and hear­ing their sto­ries, we no­ticed that a per­son’s men­tal well­be­ing and men­tal health can ben­e­fit from hav­ing or be­ing in con­tact with a pet.

“So, we wanted to en­cour­age peo­ple to ex­plore that idea.”

Ms King said the lead­er­ship group was thrilled to re­ceive a high level of com­mu­nity back­ing.

“The great thing about it was that the com­mu­nity sup­ported it all. We had peo­ple out walk­ing with their dog who joined in and a lot of peo­ple ask­ing if it could be a yearly event,” she said.

“There were rep­re­sen­ta­tives from health or­gan­i­sa­tions to of­fer peo­ple the chance to talk, but if you just wanted to cud­dle a cat you were more than wel­come.

“The main thing we wanted to push was en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to think about the im­por­tance of pet com­pan­ion­ship and set out a time for their men­tal well­be­ing, how­ever they wanted to achieve that.”

Pic­ture: PAUL CARRACHER

PAWS-ITIVE EF­FECTS: Lynne Smith, left, and Elly Han­ra­han with dogs Mag­gie and Arlo at Hor­sham PAWS’ Let’s Paws Day at Hor­sham Weir Park. The pet com­pan­ion and well­be­ing day, cre­ated as a project by a Lead­er­ship Wim­mera Re­gional Lead­er­ship Skills group, aimed to share the pos­i­tive ef­fects an­i­mal com­pan­ions have on men­tal health and well­be­ing. A raf­fle, do­na­tions and sausage siz­zle also helped to raise money for Hor­sham PAWS.

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