A Bus With A Mission

Humane Society of Marion County’s Magic Bark Bus is mobilizing the humane treatment of animals outreach educational program.

Although it is a bus that goes to schools, the Magic Bark Bus is no ordinary school bus.

Inspired in design by the Beatles’ song “Yellow Submarine,” the refurbished church van is indeed bright yellow. Peering out of painted portals are local artist Maggie Weakley’s whimsical dogs and cats. Inside are live furry, four-legged ambassadors, who—with a little help from their friends—will be instrumental in teaching children kindness to animals.

“Our mission is written right on the outside of the bus—Humane Education: Teach Today, Practice Tomorrow,” says Bruce Fishalow, executive director of the Humane Society of Marion County. “Initially, we’ll be going to all Marion County elementary schools. Eventually, we want to bring the program to all students, K-12.”

In the early stages of developing the teaching bus concept, Fishalow discovered that 15 years ago, the state Legislature passed the Florida Humane Education Statue (233.061). The little-known law requires public schools to create a kindness-to-animals course based on rules and regulations set by the state’s commissioner of education, the State Board of Education and the local school board.

“When I presented the Magic Bark Bus concept to the Marion County School Board, they were immediately on board,” says Fishalow. “We will work together to review the program and modify the curriculum as we progress. And in addition to pets, we want to also include the humane treatment of wildlife, too.”

Erin Garri, who was hired in June, will serve as the HSMC director of humane education to develop the mobile humane education program.

“While our focus is on humane education in public and private schools, we also plan to utilize the Magic Bark Bus as much as we can in public outreach throughout the community,” says Garri, who has a bachelor’s in animal science. “We will be using a curriculum created by the Humane Society of the United States, but we will also customize our own specifically for our needs.”

Garri notes that “the evolving curriculum will include basic pet care for younger students to animal-based careers for high school students.”      

Expect to see the Magic Bark Bus a lot.  

“We’re inviting the community to join this project. For at least a new $100 donation, your name will be put on the bus. We want to cover the bus with names,” says Fishalow. “We want the Magic Bark Bus to be the most recognizable vehicle in Marion County.” 

Learn more › Bruce Fishalow, (352) 208-7159 › thehsmc.org › Mail at least $100 donation Magic Bark Bus checks to: Humane Society of Marion County, P.O. Box 1542, Ocala, FL 34478

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