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Meet Aaron Fisher of Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe in Reynoldstown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Aaron Fisher.

Aaron, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
The idea behind Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe (ARDC) has been in the works for the past 12 years. But due to multiple moves (and other careers), I wasn’t able to officially bring it to fruition until November of 2017. I taught elementary school for seven years and spent more than 12 years volunteering and working in animal welfare. ARDC was born from these experiences. My students were often too young to volunteer with animals (but really wanted to learn more about pets). Yet, no single organization was primarily dedicated to educating the community about animal welfare, how to care for pets and be safer around animals.

One of the things I realized was that despite so much good that’s been accomplished for Atlanta’s pets, the number of animals entering area shelters continues to increase, as does the incidence of animal cruelty. Few local rescue groups have the personnel to offer the educational resources to prevent animals from entering shelters in the first place. Simply put, we haven’t spayed/neutered, sheltered, rescued, or adopted our way out of the pet overpopulation and animal cruelty problems. We believe the solution to these issues is humane education, so we seek to address the root causes through innovative educational programs that focus on the critical aspects of prevention and healthy human-animal interactions. Our programming now reaches nearly 500 Atlanta students/month.

When I was teaching elementary school, I was avidly rock climbing and asked my local climbing gym for the rope that was being taken down from the rock walls. My students and I started making dog leashes from retired climbing rope, and in the process, we were learning how to measure, estimate, and subtract, and also writing letters in which we dedicated each leash to a special person or pet in our lives. In the process, my students were learning why we re-purpose, and how that affects the environment, as well as the importance of ensuring our pets are microchipped, wear collars with id’s, and how that can help prevent pets from entering our area’s overcrowded shelters. We then donated the leashes to the local shelter for the volunteers to use when walking the dogs.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
We’ve been incredibly fortunate to enjoy the support of the Atlanta community (and beyond) during our first year in existence. That said, as a humane education nonprofit that’s encouraging a different way to think about rescue, and trying to address the root causes of why pets enter shelters in the first place and what we can do about it – through education and community outreach – we definitely face our share of challenges.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Atlanta Rescue Dog Cafe – what should we know?
We are, at the very core, an educational non-profit dedicated to the well-being of the community’s pets and its people. Our Mission: to work with Atlanta’s communities to solve the problems of pet overpopulation and animal cruelty. We achieve this by offering programs emphasizing: empathy, kindness, responsibility, and education. Our goal is to reach as many Atlanta residents (especially students) as possible.

We offer a wide range of programming that is grade and age-level appropriate, and we have worked with students as young as three years old (in pre-k) all the way up to seniors in assisted living facilities (we even bring certified therapy dogs to our programs through our collaboration with Pet Partners).

We offer seven classes including (but not limited to):

1) Can I Pet Your Dog? – Participants learn the basics of how and when to safely and comfortably approach a dog, what types of movements the should you make, and what we can learn from a dog’s body posture. Often accompanied by a short story (read and response), and one of our therapy dogs. Great for ages three and up.

2) Careers in Animal Welfare – Often, the only career path that comes to mind is a Veterinarian. But the industry needs so much more. This class provides an overview of many careers in animal welfare, with a focus on the various skills required (science, technology, engineering, arts, math). Perfect for STEM/STEAM nights and career days. We’ve worked with students as young as 3rd graders on this, and regularly present this program at local colleges and universities.

3) Humane Animal Practices and Bite Prevention Skills – Participants learn the skills and knowledge to be more confident and safer around pets and strays. We’ve worked with kids as young as pre-k and adults to promote positive human-animal interactions. The material covered is appropriate for each age group, and is fun and engaging, with activities to reinforce the topics covered.

3) The One Leash Project – A fun, interactive, educational project for ages eight and up. Participants make a dog leash from re-purposed climbing rope, and learn: 1) environmental sustainability and the importance of reducing/reusing (Social Studies/Science); 2) the math involved; and 3) write letters dedicating their leash to a special person or pet in their life (English/Language Arts). We simultaneously cover safe and effective animal handling and bite prevention skills. We’ve prevented 1,500 lbs of material from entering landfills since the inception of this program in 2017. The leashes are then given out for free to local police officers and firefighters, and a small number are made available for donation to the public, the proceeds of which help underwrite our programs so that we’ve never turned down a single request – even when a school/organization has no funding for outside programs.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Resourcefulness, Perseverance, and Creativity.

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