As mom to an animal-loving daughter, it warms my heart to see stories of children who are working to make the world a better place for animals. We have all seen these on social media or maybe in our own homes and neighborhoods – children who ask for donations to animal shelters instead of birthday presents; children who volunteer at animal shelters, giving homeless dogs and cats much-needed love and companionship; children who raise money with lemonade stands to donate to animal causes.
But as the leader of the most effective global animal protection organization, these stories do more than warm my heart. They give me immense hope for the future of our mission.
There is Shon Griffin, a five-year-old superhero to the homeless cats in Philadelphia. Shon, dubbed the “Catman,” dresses up in superhero costumes and accompanies his two aunts each day to feed and deliver belly scratches to stray cats, who are under the watch of a local stray cat charity called Kolony Kats. He has been doing this since age three, and as one of his aunts told People magazine, he has a “magic touch” with the animals.
There is 11-year-old Frannie, whose neighbors were forced to evacuate their homes after Hurricane Harvey hit earlier this year. After hearing on the news that the Humane Society of the United States was going house to house on boats, rescuing pets and animals who were left behind, she decided to do a lemonade stand to raise money for the animals affected by the storm. Calling themselves “Harvey’s Animal Helpers,” Frannie and her friends put together a video about their cause and put it on a GoFundMe page. Within three days, Frannie and her friends had raised $3,500 to help animals. Frannie also testified in front of a Texas Senate committee in support of an HSUS-authored bill to prohibit private ownership of dangerous wild animals.
One of the children who’s gained a great deal of fame on social media in recent weeks is Darius, a 12-year-old from Newark, New Jersey, who designs bow ties for dogs. Darius makes and donates bow ties to shelters around the country so dogs can wear them and look “cute and dapper” and irresistible to prospective adopters. Darius’s company, Beaux & Paws, now gets requests for bow ties from around the world and he’s raised thousands of dollars for animal shelters.
There are young people who are involved with our legislative efforts in Congress. Recently, our work to get the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act, H.R. 724, through Congress got a boost from a high school student, Sydney Helfand, who began a petition at Change.org to pass the PACT Act. Sydney’s petition gathered more than 650,000 signatures and she was a guest at an event organized by the Humane Society Legislative Fund in front of the U.S. Capitol to urge for passage of the act.
Declan Gregg, a high school senior, has been committed to the fight to pass the Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act, to protect horses from slaughter. At just nine years old, Declan founded Children 4 Horses, a group dedicated to ending the slaughter of American horses and promoting equine welfare. He has traveled to Capitol Hill and met with top congressional leaders to urge them to pass the SAFE Act, and he is also known for taking in animals of all shapes and sizes and making sure they are healthy and safe.
Our volunteer engagement staff responds to dozens of inquiries each year from children looking to work with animals, and there are many opportunities to do so. If your child is interested in volunteering to help animals, you can contact us for more information on how to get involved. There are also plenty of opportunities for children to volunteer at local shelters and take other steps to help animals, including educating classmates about animal protection issues that matter to them, organizing a drive to collect much-needed supplies for their local shelter or rescue, and encouraging the school cafeteria to make Mondays meat-free.
With so many young people dedicated to this mission, the future of animal protection seems promising and bright. We are proud to do all that we can to support and affirm the good instincts of young advocates, and help them in their quest to make the world a better place for all animals.