PEP! The Pet Education Project

Erica Callais Falbaum is the founder and president of PEP! The Pet Education Project, based in Shreveport, Louisiana. From their mission statement, PEP! is an education and outreach program that teaches the core responsibilities of pet ownership. A volunteer-run 501(c)3, they strive to foster humane habits in children and citizens of their community in order to reduce pet overpopulation, abuse, neglect and euthanasia.

A conversation with Erica

What is PEP! all about? 
We are working to educate kids so they understand the core principles of being a responsible pet owner. We teach each student about topics that will make an impact on lowering pet overpopulation and to help them understand that pets are a lifetime commitment that requires a lot of time, money and energy. Some of our topics include: spaying and neutering, adopting from shelters, and heartworm prevention.

Another goal of ours is to set a positive example for kids. Many kids come from homes where their pets are considered disposable, neglected or abused. If we don’t intervene, then they will grow up thinking that it’s OK to treat their pets the same way.


What specifically inspired you to start PEP! The Pet Education Project?
Here in the South, the euthanasia rate is through the roof. On average 353 cats and dogs
are euthanized each day. The mindset of some in this region regarding pets is pretty dated. The intake and euthanasia rate speaks for the lack of accountability that citizens have toward their pets. The thing is, most people aren’t bad, but rather just uneducated regarding pets.

2016-07-05_PEP07My “ah-ha moment” happened when I was volunteering at a local no-kill shelter. Every rescue and shelter here is always at capacity. From my very first day volunteering, I was blown away at the number of animals being surrendered – you hear the same stories day after day on why people had to get rid of their pets. It was pretty repetitive!

It wasn’t until one day that a family with several kids came in with a box of kittens. Our shelter was full and we couldn’t take the kittens who needed to be bottle fed. Their next option was to take them to the municipal shelter where they would have almost had an immediate death sentence.

As they were walking out the door, I asked them if they were willing to bottle feed if I taught them how. They agreed. I taught each of them individually how to care for the new kittens and told them to each take turns every two hours feeding. I realized at that moment, that by educating this family, I was able to save five animals that day! The idea spawned from there, that by making an impression on kids, we can save more animals in the long run!

Erica with some PEP! Squad kids.

I see you have different locations. Are you expanding? 
YES! We are so thrilled to reach kids all across the country! I created PEP! with the idea to make it easy for anyone, anywhere to start a chapter! In addition to Shreveport, Louisiana, we are now located in Los Olivos, California and Dickinson, North Dakota. We have interest from all around the world! Anyone can start a chapter. Visit our website and click the locations link.

What is PEP! Talk?
PEP! Talk is a fun, free classroom presentation to educate kids on the 5 steps to a happy and healthy pet. We include fun, interactive games and visuals to really captivate the kids!

What is PEP! Squad?
Anyone can join the PEP! Squad. Our PEP! Squad is led by our PEPpets! Pinky the Cat, Rufus the Dog, and Mr. Poisson the Fish! Kids can join our PEP! Squad by subscribing to our free Happy Tails Magazine!

Do you have a favorite PEP! story to share? 
Oh, there are so many! I love what I do! It’s truly the most fun seeing the kids fall in love with our PEPpets! Or shouting the words “Spay and Neuter” for the first time. I love how kids become such dedicated volunteers once we show them that they have the power to make a difference. They really do become little animal heroes!

Besides running PEP!, do you have a day job?
I have a full-time job! I am a personal assistant for a local philanthropist. She is very supportive and allows me to be flexible with my hours to accommodate our PEP! Talks. I am working very hard to raise enough funds to finally start working full time for PEP!

Do you have any pets at home?
Yes! I have 2 pups, Joey a pit bull mix, who was abused and had a chain embedded in his neck. And Kingsley, a chocolate lab we found as little puppy sleeping in the middle of the road. And 3 cats! Delilah is my oldest. She is 13! Cousteau is a diabetic kitty, and Pris is my newest. All of my pets remind me how much work and how much it costs to take care of a pet, but also the amount of joy and love they give me is priceless! They inspire me to share that with so many others!

What’s a fun fact about yourself?  
I am the voice of Ricky Raccoon (Ranger Rick) for their Bears iPad app! I am also a movie producer. My husband has an independent film production company called Moviesauce. We are shooting our next feature this Summer.

Anything else we should know about PEP! The Pet Education Project? 
We just released our first children’s book! It’s called “PEP! Squad, The 5 Steps to a Happy and Healthy Pet” and it’s for sale on Amazon! We also just started production on our new YouTube show, PEP! Talk. And we are going on tour this Summer. We have plans to stop in California, North Dakota, Michigan, Colorado, and Texas.

The PEP! Squad book

A big thank you to Erica for sharing PEP! The Pet Education Project with us and for teaching children the importance of responsible pet ownership! If you’d like to connect with PEP! and Erica, you can do so via their website, FacebookYouTube, Instagram and SnapChat (ilovepep). If you’re interested in donating, you can do so via their website or also through GoFundMe.

What do you think about PEP! The Pet Education Project? Were you taught about responsible pet ownership as a child?

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  1. Thank you Erica and Pep! for making a difference in animal’s lives. I’ve read abaout certain programs like this regionally and they help make kids more aware. I hope those kids can in turn teach their parents.

  2. Love this article! Let’s start with the children and have them learn all about pets and how they are live intelligent beings. We need this in this area of Canada. Peeps need a push to learn something new.


  3. Pawsum posty. Sounds like a great org. Mommy used to take me to da schools to teach kids ’bout repawnsible pet ownership too. Fanks fur sharin’.

    Luv ya’

    Dezi and Raena

  4. What a wonderful idea to start kids young learning to be responsible for pets and treat them with respect.

  5. The need for something like PEP! is so common sense it gets overlooked completely. Especially since kids asking their parents to get pets is one of the biggest drivers, teaching the same kids the care required is a great first step to teaching the adults too. And really, where do you learn the basics of pet ownership, especially if you’ve never had one before? There are even adults who’ve had pets for years who are surprised when you tell them about the proper way to provide cats with litter boxes or the essentials of dental care awareness.

  6. This is wonderful. What a great program to teach children at a young age to respect and love animals!

  7. Erica is a superhero – she runs this amazing organization, works full time and does voiceovers! WOW! I love the mission of PEP. One of the organizations that I am involved with, Safe Humane Chicago, has a similar program where they train youth ambassadors to go out and speak to kids in economically challenged and sometimes violent neighborhoods about compassion towards animals and the human animal bond. In many cases, these experiences are the first positive experience with animals kids have. It’s pretty powerful.

  8. I am constantly amazed and inspired by the people like Erica that I read about on Three Chatty Cats. She is not only changing the lives of people and animals now, but also for the next generation. Great job, PEP!!!

  9. I love seeing these kinds of programs for kids. When I was in Southern California, I had an outreach program with horses to teach kids kindness and respect for animals. Awesome program, Erica!

  10. Very interesting – I love this program. It is so important to teach and empower kids. We are starting Kids Pet Club in Canada- hopefully we can all make a difference.

  11. What an awesome program! Ericka is so right, Education is the key to breaking cycle of irresponsible ownership. Thanks so much for sharing this, I’m sharing this post!
    Love & biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  12. What a fantastic idea!! I just loved this one!! Education is key to change, and this is such a fun way to go about it for kids. I think kids all naturally love animals anyway, so this program will really capture that love and help them be a part of change for the future!!

  13. I love this idea! What a great way to educate kids and their parents on how to be better pet guardians. I think that most people do the best they can, but many don’t know a better way.

  14. What a great mission and so smart targeting children to teach and then help spread the message. Outreach via chapters across the US is smart and I wish them much success. Great post! Thanks so much for introducing this organization =)