By Jessica Creagan
TREASURE COAST -- A legislation idea conceptualized by group of middle-schoolers inspired a winning grant for the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County.
Janet Winikoff, education director for the Indian River County animal shelter wrote a "Peticaid" grant that was recently approved for $9,000 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of New York.
The grant, named after the federal government's Medicaid program, is designed to help pet owners who have fallen in dire financial straits with their pet's needs, both food and veterinary care, Ms. Winikoff said.
The $9,000 will be distributed by the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County to needy pet parents so that they can keep their pet at home with them and not have to give them up for adoption, she said.
"It will help make a meaningful difference to approximately 60 animal families in our community," Ms. Winikoff said.
The idea began in January, 2012 when students approached Ms. Winikoff for advice about their Peticaid idea to present as legislation for their civics class at Palm Pointe Educational Research School in Tradition, said B-J Farrell, dean's clerk for the school in an email.
The students were in a program call Project Citizen and tasked with finding a community issue to champion and they chose pets that were surrendered as a result of their low-income owners falling on hard times and being unable to care for them.
While their idea didn't make it to the state level as legislation, it definitely inspired Ms. Winikoff to write her grant.
"I knew I wanted to tell the students that their ideas had made a difference, even though they were no longer in that same class with their teacher Hillary Cruz," Ms. Winikoff said.
Earlier this year, Ms. Winikoff met with some of the students to tell them how their idea grew. The students were thankful and expressed an interest in seeing the Peticaid program grow across the Treasure Coast and the state, Ms. Farrell said in an email.
"This could potentially be a great first step for other shelters to follow suit. Maybe one day there will be a safety net for animals in our community," Ms. Winikoff said.
For more information about the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County, visit www.hsvb.org.