A little reading making a big difference for a Branford animal shelter

BRANFORD – All animals have a story of how they ended up in a shelter, most which aren’t happy ones, but a Branford shelter is trying to change the narrative.

The Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter kicked off a program, Thursday, for the second year in a row. Volunteers showed up to the shelter to read to its dogs, cats and critters.

Shelter Director Laura Burban said this program benefits not just the animals, but also the people that volunteer their time.

“It’s amazing to see the benefits for the people because people sometimes have anxiety because of work or school or other things going on,” she said. “They come in and they not only gain just the fact that they feel therapeutic reading to the animals but it's also a way for them to feel like they’re really giving back to the community.”

Burban said it helps people practice reading and public speaking without being judged.

“Whether you’re a little kid or you’re an adult just to build confidence in speaking out loud, reading around other people,” Burban said.

Young visitor from Woodbridge, Allison Zuk said reading to the animals helps her improve her literary skills. Zuk also said she thinks she made the cats she read to feel happy and calm.

North Branford resident Ali Dematteo adopted a dog from Dan Cosgrove and returned, Thursday, to spread love to the other animals.

“It’s not their choice to be here,” she said. “I think it’s extremely important for them to know they’re not alone and there is hope for them and there will be family out there some day.”

Dematteo said reading to the animals helps her wind down after a long day at work. Burban is hoping the program also helps encourage people to adopt.

“I think the animals can bond with people in a different way when they’re sitting and getting quietly read to,” Burban said. “It allows people to see them in a different way than if they’re just walking through here and seeing the dogs barking or the cats meowing.”

The program has become so popular, the shelter is booked through January.

They’re looking for people to volunteer their time, reading to the animals. Anybody can take part in the program by emailing Chris Barbaro at Cbarbaro@branford-ct.gov.