Student Stories: Animal Science major saves dogs in Florida

Penn State senior Kasie Hatfield has always loved animals, so she jumped at the opportunity last year to return to her home state of Florida and help rehabilitate sick, injured and aggressive dogs.

From May through August, the Animal Science major in the College of Agricultural Sciences worked as an intern for On the Wings of an Angel, a dog-rescue operation that specializes in rehabilitating animals from other shelters that were going to be euthanized.

In addition to feeding and walking the dogs, Hatfield also got to try her hand at training -- the key to preparing them for adoption, which was the ultimate goal.

"We would work on basic stuff -- heeling, sitting, staying, lying down -- just to create a language that could be used between the dog and the new owner," she said. "Once there was someone interested in the dog, we would do extra training and work toward accommodating any special needs the new owner might have."

Hatfield's experience at the rescue meshed well with the material from her Penn State courses. "I had taken some companion-animal classes where we learned things such as what to look for in a sick dog, what is considered sanitary and what isn't -- it was nice to find this information useful in the real world," she said.

Her course material was not the only thing she found helpful on the job – Hatfield’s position on Penn State's softball team is where she developed the work ethic necessary for 40-hour weeks, and the ability to collaborate with a group of people. In 2013, Hatfield was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection as a catcher, third baseman and designated player for the Lady Lions softball team. She begins the 2014 campaign with a batting average of .341.

"I worked with 19 other people on the softball team just like at the rescue, so that was really helpful experience," Hatfield said.

Upon returning to the rescue to help out over Thanksgiving break, Hatfield was pleased to find that there had been significant improvements. Many of the dogs had been adopted or were in the process of being adopted.

'Hatfield also discovered that On the Wings of an Angel is now paired with Hernando County, Fla. -- they are receiving dogs from the county shelter that are in need of help, so there was more training to be done.

The Tampa native remains in contact with her co-workers from the rescue and has been offered a position there if she returns to Florida, which is exactly the kind of rewarding work that she would like to do in the future.

"You could be having the worst day ever, and one dog could change everything just by showing improvements or showing you love. It was awesome," she said.

Learn about the Animal Science major.

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Last Updated March 28, 2014