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    Mallori Hutchinson with Ruby at Horsham PAWS Let's Paws Day at Horsham Weir Park. Ruby was Toto in St Brigid's College's The Wizard Of Oz.
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    Lynne Smith and Elly Hanrahan with Arlo and Maggie at Horsham PAWS Let's Paws Day at Horsham Weir Park.
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    PAWS-ITIVE EFFECTS: Lynne Smith, left, and Elly Hanrahan with dogs Maggie and Arlo at Horsham PAWS’ Let’s Paws Day at Horsham Weir Park. The pet companion and wellbeing day, created as a project by a Leadership Wimmera Regional Leadership Skills group, aimed to share the positive effects animal companions have on mental health and wellbeing. A raffle, donations and sausage sizzle also helped to raise money for Horsham PAWS. Pictures: PAUL CARRACHER

Let’s Paws event spreads mental-wellbeing message

A unique chance for people to share a cuddle with a cat or pat a puppy has helped raise hundreds of dollars for pet welfare and awareness of the wellbeing benefits of animal companionship.

As part of a Leadership Wimmera 2019 Regional Leadership Skills Program, five aspiring trail-blazers combined skills with a range of community organisations and businesses to create a Let’s Paws Day.

The free event, at Horsham’s Weir Park on Saturday, offered people the chance to interact with Horsham PAWS volunteers and animals up for adoption, as well as representatives from Grampians Community Health.

A raffle, donations and a Rotary Club of Warracknabeal sausage sizzle also helped raise more than $300 for Horsham PAWS on the day.

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ACE Radio announcers Holly King and Kaycee Bould, members of the Regional Leadership Skills Program with Rhianon Plush, Jess Koschitzke and Jonathan Starks, said Let’s Paws aimed to share an idea of improved mental wellbeing through animal interaction.

Whether a dog, a cat or a fish, Ms Bould said animals were more than just ‘a pet’ for many people – they were a family member that could have profound effects on a person’s mental health.

“Let’s Paws was a project for our Regional Leadership Skills Program. We had to come up with an event where skills like teamwork, communication and problem solving came into play. The result was a pet companion and wellbeing day,” she said.

“We did a lot of research and through talking to people and hearing their stories, we noticed that a person’s mental wellbeing and mental health can benefit from having or being in contact with a pet.

“So, we wanted to encourage people to explore that idea.”

Ms King said the leadership group was thrilled to receive a high level of community backing.

“The great thing about it was that the community supported it all. We had people out walking with their dog who joined in and a lot of people asking if it could be a yearly event,” she said.

“There were representatives from health organisations to offer people the chance to talk, but if you just wanted to cuddle a cat you were more than welcome.

“The main thing we wanted to push was encouraging people to think about the importance of pet companionship and set out a time for their mental wellbeing, however they wanted to achieve that.”

– Lotte Reiter

The entire August 14, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!