Rebuilt education centre will benefit school children

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Young animal lover Max Magee is so determined to help SPCA Otago he is willing to give up some of his birthday money for the cause.
Max and his siblings Will and Maia, along with cousin Lucia Johnston-Jones, have added their voices to the call for Dunedin and Otago people to get behind the ‘‘Help Rescue SPCA Otago’’ fundraising campaign.
Launched last week in The Star, the campaign aims to raise $1.5 million to replace dilapidated buildings at the Opoho animal shelter, which are putting the welfare of people and animals at risk.
One of the areas of major concern is the education centre, which cannot be used for sessions with children due to a range of problems, including unsafe access, a closed-off toilet and general shabbiness. At present, the building is being used mainly to store pet food and donated goods for the SPCA op shop.
This means SPCA Otago business development manager Kirsty Thomson and executive officer Sophie McSkimming are taking their education programmes out to schools instead of inviting children in.
‘‘It is not an ideal situation, as we can only take along a couple of animals for the children to meet,’’ Ms Thomson.
Max, Will, Maia, and Lucia have all experienced education sessions at St Clair School, and really enjoyed them, but also relish the opportunity to visit the animals at the Opoho animal centre.
‘‘At school we have learnt about stuff like caring for animals, how the SPCA helps us, and how to be safe around animals,’’ Max said.
‘‘It’s good to know those things.’’
The Magee and Johnston-Jones families both have rescued animals as pets, and the children’s grandmother, Amanda Capon-Wright, is a volunteer at the shelter and fosters kittens.
‘‘The children are great with the fostered kittens — they are really invaluable when it comes to socialising them,’’ Ms Capon-Wright said.
‘‘They love animals and they are always keen to help,’’ she said.
One of the ways they are doing so is by being active participants in an ongoing fundraising campaign at St Clair School, which has so far raised $115 for SPCA Otago. The children in Max’s class are taking on odd jobs for donations and aim to raise about $500 during the course of this year.
‘‘And I sometimes ask for money for my birthday instead of presents, so I’m planning to give some of that to the SPCA,’’ Max said.
Ms Thomson said it was wonderful to have the support of people such as the Magee and Johnston-Jones families as SPCA Otago worked towards its $1.5 million target.
The planned upgrade of the SPCA Otago Opoho animal centre would improve animal intake areas, provide a new education centre, improve quarantine and treatment areas for sick or injured animals, and extend the adoption facilities to provide more space and comfort for the animals.