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Good pet stewardship takes practice

Lori Harris and her golden retriever, Sam, may not look like typical teachers.

But they spend a good deal of their time visiting kindergarten through third grade classes in Pinellas County teaching good pet ownership.

Harris, who has been the "Pet Professor" for the Pinellas Animal Foundation for two years, believes that it's important to educate kids early about caring for a pet.

The foundation, established in 1983, is proud of what it does. It is dedicated to improving animal care, owner responsibility and increasing awareness of the value of the human/animal bond.

Harris, who has worked for the foundation for 2{ years, got Sam from a shelter in May 2001. She recommends that if you are interested in getting a pet that you do so from a shelter because animals in shelters need homes and want to be loved.

For many years, Harris worked in a veterinarian hospital and loved the hands-on experience. She later decided she wanted to work with one animal to teach people about animal care.

When Harris is teaching, she tells the kids to think from the animals' perspective. She tells them not to tug on their pet's ears. To help them understand she asks, "Would you like it if your mom and dad (pulled) on your ear? Just love your animal and don't get one unless you will make the commitment to keep it."

The foundation sponsors the veterinarian office at Great Explorations _ The Hands-On Museum in St. Petersburg. They have a mock veterinarian's office for young kids to play in. It has everything that a real office has from the stuffed animals to the medical charts.

The Pet Professor goes anywhere she is needed throughout Pinellas County. If you have questions for Harris and would like to contact her, call (727) 347-7387 or visit the foundation's Web site at

She comes in the classroom for about an hour and the children get to pet Sam at the end.

_ Reva Luth-Powell, 13, is in eighth grade at Bay Point Middle School in St. Petersburg.