The group currently brings the S.M.I.L.E. program to nine Gloucester County libraries and seven schools to de-stress children and to encourage them to practice reading aloud.
“Animals are so totally non-judgmental,” program coordinator John Bednar said. “Our S.M.I.L.E. program is a benefit in so many ways. These animals, and animals in general, love unconditionally and the physical, mental and emotional benefits of interacting with them has been proven. Local colleges and universities, including Drexel and the University of Delaware, have begun inviting in animals during final exam weeks to help calm and de-stress students. They help in hospitals, nursing homes, hospice settings, even with troops who are being deployed or returning from action.”
Bednar shared some staggering statistics regarding the population of dogs and cats that are currently in shelters throughout America and the percentages of those animals that will be euthanized (eight millions animals currently housed in shelters, of which 31-41 percent will be put down) and emphasized the need for spaying and neutering the pet population.