Children can learn about love, respect and responsibility through volunteer work at pet shelters, says Washington-based animal rescuer Amanda Giese.
“At pet shelters, children get to walk the dogs, and help with odds and ends. It teaches children about empathy and selflessness,” says Giese, during an interview in Kuala Lumpur recently.
The 36-year-old is also the founder of Panda Paws Rescue, a non- profit organisation advocating for medically abused or disabled animals, in Washougal, Washington.
Giese is the new face of Animal Planet series, Amanda To The Rescue. It follows her large-scale rescue missions across the United States to save dozens of animals with medical or special needs from being euthanised.
The 10-episode series, which airs on Animal Planet (Astro Ch 556) on Tuesdays at 9pm – sees her journeying to California shelters that are overrun with displaced and injured animals from deadly wildfires.
Giese also flies to Puerto Rico to help a dog rescue operation that needs assistance in their recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria hit last year. She then takes off to Hawaii to relieve pet shelters of overcrowding and bring dogs to safety after the eruption of Kilauea volcano.
Given that the series deals with animal rescue work, the show is very much like a documentary. Nothing is scripted nor created for content. Everything is spot-on, focussing on Giese’s animal rescue efforts.
“On some days, the film crew followed me on rescue work till midnight. The next morning, I would be up at 5am to nurse wounded animals.
“They were amazed with the hours that go into caring for rescued animals,” says Giese, adding that the show also features animals getting treatments in veterinary clinics, and volunteers who co-ordinate rescue and transfer efforts.
The show caters to kids of all ages, explains Giese.
“Not only is the show educational, it is family-centric. Children can watch it with their parents and grandparents. It is relatable and animal lovers will be able to find something they love about the series,” says Giese, who first studied medicine but later dropped out of medical school to pursue her interest in pet-rescue work.
Giese is no stranger to animal rescue. She first rescued a kitten – named Jane Doe – when she was 11 years old. In the span of 25 years, she has saved over 4,000 animals, including dogs, cats and all sorts of wildlife – snakes, possums, birds and ferrets.
And if an animal has a very slim chance of survival, Giese strives hard to nurse it back to health.
“Even if an animal had a 1% chance of survival, we should navigate it towards recovery. Pet rescue efforts have taught me so much about reaching out to others, whether humans or animals,” says Giese, who lives by St Francis Assisi’s motto: “In giving, we receive”.
Panda Paws Rescue is managed by Giese, her partner Gary and her children – Beast, 16, and Jade, 14.
The 10-year-old centre helps to care for rescued animals and find suitable homes for them. At any given time, there are about 30 animals at the centre.
Out of the many rescued animals, she has adopted five disabled dogs and two cats. One pet dog was diagnosed with syringomyelia, a condition where fluid-filled cavities develop within the spinal cord. Another dog has Dandy-Walker syndrome, a congenital malformation.
“Even though an animal is differently abled, it doesn’t mean they can’t be great pets. These animals can be your best friends. It needs your attention for about 12 years. It is important to be kind, invested and build a strong bond with pets.”
She encourages children to volunteer at pet shelters during weekends or school breaks.
“Children get to socialise with other volunteers. Working with animals is an enriching experience for children, too. Volunteer work serves as good experience to enable children to bond with animals.”