Enrichment Program Provides Healing for At-Risk Youth Through Shelter Dog Training

Chef Stefan Davenport teaching our students the ways of vegan cooking

On Friday, January 27, 2017, St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center celebrated the graduation of its 4th Annual Teen Animal Welfare Enrichment Program. The program allows at-risk teens to work in pairs, using teamwork to train St. Hubert’s shelter dogs in commands and behavior modification. The program participants have all struggled through traumatic experiences resulting in substance abuse and behavioral issues. The 5-day intensive is designed to teach lessons that inspire empathy, compassion, respect, and responsibility while strengthening the human-animal bond and giving the participants a sense of accomplishment. During the graduation day, family and community members were invited to St. Hubert’s Training and Behavior Center on the Madison Campus where the students demonstrated their dog’s learned commands. Many of St. Hubert’s shelter dogs have also come from difficult pasts. St. Hubert’s provides the unique opportunity for a special bond to grow between each Daytop teen and their furry student. In addition to the daily training courses, the students also participated in group discussions with guest clinicians providing education on animal welfare issues such as factory farming, respect for wild-life, and therapy. The participants even had a cooking lesson with a vegan chef.


“We have a wonderful Humane Education program, but really wanted to dive-in to where we thought a greater impact was needed,” said Heather Cammisa, President & CEO. We began this program in 2014 to really provide a way for at-risk youth to feel a sense of accomplishment and the power of the human-animal bond.”

Overall, St. Hubert’s Humane Education offerings, which include school, scout, and summer day camp programs, reached more than 4,000 students this past year, with many of them coming from underserved communities. They are pleased to partner with Daytop NJ, a residential and out-patient facility for adolescents struggling with substance abuse and behavioral issues, to help transform these teens into compassionate, motivated, adults.


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