Youth and Teacher Programs

The Santa Cruz SPCA recognizes that a community without pet over-population, abuse, neglect, homelessness, and other animal welfare issues begins with the education of youth and adults alike. From adult informational seminars and classroom presentations to educational camps and shelter activities, we strive to make animal-care knowledge available to anyone and everyone.

Our humane education programs cultivate compassion and respect for all animals by promoting proper care and responsible action.

Have questions? Visit the FAQ tab on this page or contact our Humane Education Department at 831-566-3753 or email:

For all the latest and greatest news about our youth programs, follow our Humane Education Facebook Page!
The kids of today are the companion animal guardians of tomorrow. To curb issues like animal abuse, neglect, and over-population in the future, we have created fun-filled programs that help young people understand animals and make positive choices for their community, now and for the rest of their lives.

P.A.W.S (ages 7-12)

Promoting Animal Welfare with Students
The Santa Cruz SPCA offers a youth volunteer program for students, ages 7 through 12. (Students over the age of 16 can sign up for our regular volunteer program.) This program provides a safe and supervised setting for area youth to help with the care, socializing, and training of the shelter animals.

**We now offer TWO levels of PAWS for both Juniors and Pre-teens! New sessions start each month, September through May. **

-PAWS 1 is for students just starting out our PAWS program and who are still learning to be comfortable around animals and still learning to work in small groups.  You can sign up for this session if your student never been to PAWS or has recently started their journey in one of our PAWS programs.  PAWS 1 sessions meet Monday from 4-6pm for Juniors (age 7-9 yrs. old) and Tuesday from 4-6pm for Pre-Teen (10-12 yrs. old)

The cost for one two-week session of PAWS 1 is $65.

-PAWS 2 is for students who have a good level of experience in our PAWS program and are looking to take it one step further.  Students in this group can work off of existing skills learned in our PAWS 1 program and can gain both further skill sets and a greater understanding of the bigger picture of animal welfare.  PAWS 2 sessions meet on Wednesday from 4-6pm for Juniors (7-9 yrs. old) and Thursdays from 4-6pm for Pre-teens (10-12 yrs. old). *

Prerequisite: At least one or more sessions of PAWS 1 completed.

The cost for one three-week session of PAWS 2 is $65.

-If you are not sure what session of PAWS your student belongs in, please call our office at 831-566-3753 or e-mail us at or


Community Service Saturdays (ages 13-15)

Many area middle and high school students are required to meet a certain number of community service hours in order to graduate or meet their program goals. We realize that these students may not have the desire, nor the ability, to commit to volunteering with us for the long term so Community Service Saturdays was developed in an effort to both serve our community’s youth and to allow us to benefit from their valuable volunteer time!

We are able to accommodate up to 12 middle and/or high students in a session who are supervised by the SCSPCA's Humane Educator or their designee. Students will complete work, that can include but may not be limited to, shelter site maintenance, office filing and sorting, cleaning of the shelter site and animal enclosures, animal enrichment, preparing food bags and dog walking and cat TLC. 

Community Service Saturdays

Last Saturday of the month (Except in the case of some holidays) 10-1pm September through May

$25 per student




                                                                                                              2024 Animal Arts Spring Camp                                 

During this camp experience, campers will be developing their creative skills by designing pictures and models of different animals using a variety of media and techniques.

Throughout camp, the children will learn how to conduct consent tests, build trust with our dogs and cats, and socialize with them. They will make enrichments and treats for the animals to keep them happy and engaged.

Junior Camp (April 1st  to April 2nd) – This camp will be for students 6 years through 8 years.

Preteen Camp (April 3rd to April 4th) – This camp will be for students 9 years through 11 years.

Both camps will cost $180 for the two days.

Sessions run from 9am to 3pm each day.

If you have any questions, please contact Alison at


Summer Camp 2024 registration is open!

Summer Animal Olympics Camp 2024


Sometimes the ideal audience for a new reader is a doting dog or cat who hangs on every word, whether or not it’s pronounced correctly. To facilitate these connections, the Santa Cruz SPCA offers Rescue Readers, a program designed to give young readers a chance to practice and enhance their literacy in the comfortable presence of shelter animals. These cute, cuddly, judgment-free listeners enjoy the extra TLC while they wait for their forever homes.

Rescue Readers are available Thursdays each month (excluding some holidays) from 3:30-4:00 pm September through May, for individuals or one group of up to 10 youth. 

Have a question? Shoot an email to our Humane Education Team or call 831-566-3753.

Santa Cruz SPCA  2024 Art Competition

Do you have a budding artist at home? Have them enter our annual poster contest in honor of “Be Kind to Animals Week” in May!

This year’s theme is “Animals Make the Best Friends.” The top three entries, judged by SPCASC staff and volunteers, will receive a humane themed book, a certificate and a visit to your child’s school by our Humane Education Coordinator.

You may use any media to create your artwork.  Artworks will be judged on:

  • Creativity,
  • Skill in the media chosen by the artist,
  • How well the artwork expresses the theme “Animals Make the Best Friends.”

Artworks can be hand delivered or posted to:

Santa Cruz SPCA, 2601 Chanticleer Avenue, Santa Cruz 95065, Marked: “Attention Alison Shearman”

by Wednesday May 1st, 2024!

Questions?  Email:   Telephone:  831-566-3753

Classroom Presentations

Our Humane Education Classroom Presentations support next-generation animal advocates and stewardship of a more humane community in the future! Invite our staff to join your classroom for one of our popular presentations.

You can sign up for as many presentations as you would like, at no cost to you. However, donations are greatly appreciated!

Please browse our classroom presentation guide and submit a presentation request below. Please designate whether you want your presentation online or in-person.



Pre-Recorded Classroom Presentations

Need something a bit more flexible? We have pre-recorded a few of our most popular presentations so that you can still incorporate these educational pieces into your classroom curriculum at your own pace!

Our Wild Neighbors, Play it Safe, and Pet Care 101 can be accessed by clicking the button below!


Other ways teachers and students can get involved: 

  • Host a donation or adoption drive in your classroom or throughout your school
  • Complete an activity from our Community Service Action Guide.
  • Volunteer at the Santa Cruz SPCA! We have a junior volunteer program for ages 7-15 and a general volunteer program for ages 16 and over. Families can even volunteer to foster shelter animals at any time! 
  • Report animal cruelty to Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter at 831-454-7200 or by calling 911.
  • Tell everyone you know about the Santa Cruz SPCA and the programs we offer. If family or friends are looking to adopt an animal, tell them to check out our local shelter.


We would like to welcome for tours of our new space, groups with an interest in learning more about us, our programs and how to support the work that we do!

Come get a behind the scenes glimpse of the work that we do every day!  In the world of animal welfare, no one shelter can do it all. We must work together for the greatest impact in the lives of animals and the humans that care for them. That’s why we believe in, and focus on, collaborative work with dozens of other shelters, rescues, and animal welfare agencies, to rescue and rehabilitate cats and dogs and find them loving homes.

We are so proud of not only the care we give to our animals and our clients but our programs that serve the community as well such as our classroom and on-site youth program, our pet food pantry and Rescue Readers where students can come practice their reading to our shelter dogs and cats.  We can’t wait to share it all with you!

Our shelter tours happen on Mondays and Fridays between the hours of 10am and 3pm.  We can accommodate up to a group of 20 students (+ 4 adults) or 20 adults for $60 with a $2 fee for each additional student/adult over 20.  The tour will involve meeting a shelter dog and some shelter cats.  If you are having trouble with cost or days offered, please reach out to us!! You can sign up for a tour by contacting us at

Summer Camp FAQs

Summer Camp FAQs

What time should I arrive? 

Camp runs from Monday through Friday, from 9:00am to 3:00pm on site at our new shelter, 2601 Chanticleer Ave. Please arrive no earlier than 8:50 am and plan to be picked up no later than 3:10 pm. It is very important that campers be picked up on time because we do not have  facilities or staff to supervise children after camp is over. 

Do I need to be there every day? 

We hope so! Some camp activities will build on ones from previous days, so you might miss out on something important if you miss too much time. If you need to miss a day, just let us know. 

What will we do during the week? 

We’ll learn about many different kinds of animals and how to care for them, at home and in the wild! We will do a variety of activities, crafts, and games that will not only be fun, but many will also directly benefit shelter animals. We will also have quite a few interesting guest speakers, many of whom will have different kinds of animals accompanying them. This is a humane education camp aimed at teaching campers the importance of all life and how they can contribute to the well-being of animals and the environment in our local area. 

Will we get to meet any real animals? 

Yes! You will certainly meet and handle cats and dogs, and you will meet many other types of animals, like rabbits and chickens. You will get a chance to hang out with the animals from the SPCA as well as visiting with animals brought by presenters and give them some TLC (Tender Loving Care). You will also be able to advocate for SPCA animals and help them find homes.  

What should I bring with me? 

Bring a lunch, snacks and something to drink every day. We do not provide any snacks during camp. We suggest bringing a water bottle that you can refill if you get thirsty. As it will be summertime and quite warm, we also suggest hats, sunglasses and sunblock to protect from the sun as we will be both indoors and outdoors. If you need to have medications with you during camp, please let us know. 

What should I wear? 

You should wear comfortable clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. You never know when a dog will drool on you or a cat will shed some fur on your shirt. Please wear closed toe shoes as well. We ask that campers wear a mask at all times.

Will I be caring for any animals during Camp? 

We may be “caring” for animals that are staying with us during the week of camp. The “caring” can include socializing, training, feeding, cleaning up poop/pee etc. We will not be cleaning cages, doing laundry or anything of that nature. 

What things are not allowed at Camp? 

For the safety of the animals as well as campers, please do not wear long-hanging jewelry. No games (including video, hand-held or electronic devices) or other valuable belongings should be brought. Cell phones must be on “vibrate” during camp sessions unless approved by education staff. Please consider labeling any personal belongings your child will be bringing. Santa Cruz SPCA is not responsible for lost articles.


P.A.W.S Junior Volunteer FAQs

How old does a child have to be to participate?

We welcome students ages 7 through 12, grouped by their age range. The ranges are as follows:

  • Junior P.A.W.S - 7 yrs to 9 yrs
  • Pre-Teen P.A.W.S - 10 yrs to 12 yrs

How often does P.A.W.S meet?

There is a new session of P.A.W.S each month. We meet for three after school sessions a month.

Can my child come any day of the week?

We have each age group meet on a different day of the week. They are as follows:

  • Junior P.A.W.S - Tuesday from 4pm - 6pm
  • Pre-Teen P.A.W.S - Thursday from 4pm - 6pm through December 2021 and then Wednesday 4-6pm January through May 2022

Do I need to accompany my child?

No, it is a drop-off program where students work alongside our education staff.

Is it hands on with the animals?

Yes, students will be working hands on with both cats and dogs.

What should my child wear to the session?

For safety reasons, we ask that all students wear long pants and closed toed shoes as well as clothes they don't mind getting dirty while here working with the animals.

What if my child has no prior animal experience?

That's ok! Each new session has an orientation on the first day where we go over safety and handling. Students work with kid-safe animals and are always being supervised by an adult.

Can my child sign up for more than one session?

To allow the for the most students to have the opportunity to benefit from the program we ask that families only sign up for one month at a time at least during initial registration.  If there are more open sessions after the initial registration rush an additional month should be no problem.

Will this count toward Community Service Hours?

We would be happy to sign off on community service hours per session as long as the student brings along the appropriate paperwork from the school. We also have another youth volunteer program (Community Service Saturdays) that occur on the last Saturday of every month.

How do I sign up for P.A.W.S?

To sign up for P.A.W.S, visit the Youth Volunteer tab of our Humane Education page.

Parents will be sent a waiver to fill out and either send back or bring in on the first day of program.

Community Service Saturdays FAQs

Community Service Saturday FAQs

How old does my child need to be to participate?

These sessions are geared toward middle and high school students, age 13 to 15, in need of community service hours. 

How often do you meet?

Community Service Saturdays happen one Saturday a month, usually the last Saturday, from 10am to 12pm or 1pm to 3pm through December 2021 and 10-1pm January through May 2022.

Do I need to accompany my child?

No, it is a drop off program where students work alongside our education staff.

Is the program hands on with the animals?

The first half of each session is devoted to project-based work around the shelter, such as: organizing, cleaning, weeding, etc. The latter half is devoted to hands-on time with both cats and dogs at our shelter.

What should my child wear to the session?

For safety reasons, we ask that all students wear long pants and closed toed shoes as well as clothing they don't mind getting dirty while here working with the animals.

What do they need to bring with them?

We recommend that students bring a jacket, a water bottle, and a lunch or snack. We also ask that they bring along any paperwork that they need signed for their community service hours.

What if my child has no prior animal experience?

That's ok! Each new session has an orientation on the first day where we go over safety and handling. Students work with kid-safe animals and are always being supervised by an adult.

Can my child sign up for more than one session?

Yes. We have quite a few repeat Community Service Saturday students who get to work on their animal handling skills each time they come.

How do I sign up for Community Service Saturday?

To register for Community Service Saturdays, visit the Youth Volunteer tab of our Humane Education page. 

Rescue Readers FAQs

Rescue Readers FAQs

How old do you need to be to read to the animals?

The Rescue Readers program is geared toward primary and secondary students in Pre-K through 8th grade.

Do students need to come with a school group?

No, we take individuals as long as they are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

What is the largest school group you can take?

In our current facilities, we can take up to 10 students. However, we can also come out to your school with our education dogs to accommodate a larger group.

Will they be reading to animals in cages?

We try to have children reading in a separate open space where the dogs and cats can get comfortable and ready to listen.

Can they read to both cats and dogs?

When children visit our shelter to read, they can read to both cats and dogs in our care. When we come out to classrooms, we can only bring education dogs with us. As you can probably imagine, the transportation of cats to a new environment is rather scary, so they stay at the shelter.

Can they read to any animal they want?

So that both the children and the animal(s) can get the most out of the interaction, we typically choose who they will be reading to.

Why do you offer this reading program?

We hope to provide our animals with some comforting companionship while at the same time help students in our community to become better readers. The animals are non-judgmental listeners who allow students to practice as much as needed. The cuddle time with our shelter animals or education dogs is just an added bonus that also teaches students about the wonderful animals waiting in our shelter for homes!

How long are the reading sessions?

The reading session lasts 30 minutes  Sometimes our readers will bring one book and sometimes they will bring many!

Do they need to bring their own books?

We encourage you to bring your own reading material that is at the appropriate reading level. However, if you need books for reading, let us know and we can provide them.

How do I sign up for Rescue Readers?

To register for Rescue Readers, please contact our education department or call 831-566-3753.



Shelter Tours

Coming Soon!

Shelter Location

2601 Chanticleer Ave.

Santa Cruz, CA 95065

(P) 831-465-5000 (F) 831-479-8530


Hours of Operation

Mon & Tues - CLOSED

Animal Browsing Wed to Sun 11am - 5pm

*PET FOOD PANTRY - Fridays 1:00pm - 3:00pm

The Santa Cruz SPCA is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to the welfare of animals. We receive no government funding, and depend solely on financial support from our friends. Our organization is not affiliated with any other SPCA or Humane Society.

Tax ID: 94-6171565

© 2017 Santa Cruz SPCA