HAVERHILL — Crystal Gioioso knows it can cost a lot to provide her dog Aspen, a Yorkshire terrier, with medical care and food.
But she also knows that not every pet owner has the money to feed and care for their animal. In some cases, that can force them to turn the beloved animal over to an organization such as the Humane Society at a time when their pet could be most beneficial to them.
Because many pet owners may not know who to turn to for help during a financial or medical crisis such as the pandemic, Crystal came up with an idea she thinks will help.
In an effort to help struggling pet owners keep their animals, Crystal and several other members of her Girl Scout Troop 88176 created a booklet of resources as her Bronze Award project.
The Bronze Award is the highest honor a junior scout can achieve and is presented in recognition of projects that have a positive impact on the community.
Crystal was a junior scout when she launched her project earlier this year and is now a Girl Scout Cadet.
“With the COVID situation, I had met with a woman from the Lowell Humane Society who told me people were having a hard time affording their pets this year, so I thought it would be a good idea to provide pet owners with a list of resources where they can get things like free pet food and supplies and either free or low-cost pet care, including vaccinations,” Crystal said. “I contacted a lot of places, such as the MSPCA at Nevin’s Farm in Methuen, Angell at Nashoba and Haverhill’s animal control in creating the list.”
A sixth-grader at Hill View Montessori Charter Public School where her troop meets, Crystal and her fellow troop members researched organizations in and outside of the Merrimack Valley that offer assistance to pet owners.
The booklets, which were printed with a grant from the Girl Scouts that Crystal’s troop leader, Tammy Geyer, applied for, were distributed locally to the Sacred Hearts Church food pantry, All Saints Church food pantry and the Lowell Humane Society.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” Crystal said about the project.
Other members of the troop who were involved in the project are: Violet Veth, an eighth-grader who is home schooled; Emily Modeen, an eighth-grader at Consentino Middle School; Isabella Ramirez, a sixth-grader at Consentino; and Cecilia Geyer, an eighth-grader at Hill View who is the daughter of the troop leader.
“Cecilia helped me do a lot of research while Emily, Violet and Isabella helped organize the information,” Crystal said.
Tammy Geyer said a PBS Morning Edition TV show focusing on pet poverty noted that according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, millions of pets in the country are living in poor conditions.
“They also discussed how research shows having a pet improves physical and mental health,” Geyer said. “Pets can reduce both depression and anxiety, as well as reduce blood pressure and increase hormones associated with happiness. So keeping them in their homes is beneficial to the pet and the owner.
“All of this means that our local Girl Scouts are out in front of the problems impacting our community,” she said.
Cecilia said she understood the importance of creating such a resource.
“I know how much I love my pets, so now even more I wanted to help people keep theirs,” Cecilia said.
Crystal was recently awarded the Girl Scout Bronze Award for her efforts. Several other scouts in the troop had received their bronze awards for an earlier project.
“I think this is a great project and a very timely one,” Tammy Geyer said. “The troop is very committed to the well being of pets.”