Friday, September 11, 2015

Gold Award Spotlight: Rats to the Rescue

Norfolk Girl Scout Rhiannon Harvey has earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest honor and achievement in Girl Scouting.

Spreading the word about the downsides of domesticating exotic animals has been something Rhiannon has been concerned with for a while. For her project, Rhiannon focused on educating members of her community about issues that arise from keeping exotic animals as pets, including illnesses, injuries and the animals not being properly cared for outside of their natural environment.

Rhiannon also worked with the Virginia Zoo in Norfolk to raise two rats that have since been added to the zoo’s education department. She trained them to run through tunnels and go over jumps on an agility course and made sure that they were accustomed to being handled by humans, a quality important for animals in the education department. She brought the rats to her community presentations to introduce them as an option for pet owners.

“I enjoy training and working with animals, especially ones as affectionate and intelligent as rats,” Rhiannon said. “I hope that my project inspired people to resist the temptations of keeping exotic animals as pets.”

Rhiannon donated the rat obstacle course and an accompanying instructional manual to the zoo so that they can be used when rats are acquired by the zoo in the future.

The Gold Award requires girls to identify an issue in the community and carry out a Take Action Project to address the matter through leadership work. Nationwide, less than 6 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award, which adds Rhiannon to an elite group of females across the country with honor.