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People and Animals Learning (PAL)

Update 5/15/20:

The health and safety of participants in our programs, our volunteers, and our staff is our top priority. Out of an abundance of caution, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our 2020 PAL program. We did not make this decision lightly as we look forward to PAL each summer and know how beneficial it is for the young people we serve. We look forward to next year’s PAL program!


PAL is a nationally recognized empathy-building program that pairs underserved youth with shelter dogs.

Using reward-based training methods, students work in pairs over a two-week period to train a shelter dog with basic cues. By working closely and bonding with shelter animals, PAL participants expand their circles of compassion to include animals and become ambassadors for the Wisconsin Humane Society's mission.

PAL seeks to increase self-esteem and pro-social skills like empathy and cooperation, which research shows decreases a child's likelihood of becoming involved in violence. PAL also helps the dogs develop skills to prepare them for an adoptive family.

There are many reasons why a young person may benefit from the PAL program, including:

  • Exposure to family conflict or violence
  • Lack of opportunities for positive engagement
  • Having one or more guardian incarcerated
  • Living in poverty

How you can help

The PAL program is offered free of charge to participants, and door-to-door transportation is provided. For information about how you can provide a life-changing experience for one of our PAL participants, please contact our Development Team at 414-431-6119 or

Results and Testimonials

Of the young people who participate, on average:

  • 89% demonstrate an increase in empathy
  • 86% demonstrate an increase in cooperation
  • 80% demonstrate an increase in self-efficacy

Here's what students who have participated in the program had to say:

  • "After participating in the PAL program, I will do my best in the future and not doubt myself."
  • "The most important thing I learned about myself in the PAL program is that I can do more than I thought I could."

Here's what participant guardians and teachers had to say:

  • "[PAL was] an opportunity for [my son] to grow mentally, learn and experience new things, and meet new people."
  • "[PAL] gave her an opportunity to work with love and find a voice and confidence in leadership."

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All donations are being matched for animals in need! Any gift you give will automatically double in value -- up to $250,000!