A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

A Week for the Animals

… and for the young people who are helping them

It’s almost 100 years since the American Humane Association (AHA) held its first Be Kind to Animal Week in 1915.

AHA, best known today for monitoring movies with animals in them, was founded with the dual mission of protecting children and animals. It brings these together with its iconic Be Kind to Animals Kid Contest that recognizes children who go above and beyond to create a better world for animals.

Here are this year’s winners – in the two categories of teen and pre-teen.

Eleven-year-old Hannah Straw said she was distressed when she saw the conditions at the city animal shelter in Independence, Ohio. It was simply a small room in the city service garage with cats and kittens “smushed together” and right next to barking of the dogs.

“I felt so bad,” said Hannah. “I would not want to be stuck in there.”

Hannah went to the next city council meeting, got up before the crowd, and offered suggestions like moving the cats to a better location and providing an area where the dogs could run about. She even offered to help out.

The mayor vowed to personally look into it, and soon after, new fencing was installed to create a dog run. The cats were moved to another building, and Hannah helped clean it up and get it ready for its new arrivals.

The new cat shelter is also much friendlier to people, too. So it’s no surprise that most of the cats who come in are now adopted.

Thirteen-year-old Justin Strawser and his family adopted Sweet Pea, a mixed breed, from Dogs Deserve Better (DDB), which campaigns on behalf of dogs chained up in people’s yards. That’s how Sweet Pea had lived her life.

When Justin gave Sweet Pea a toy, she didn’t even know what to do with it. She’d never learned to play. “Once that happened,” said Justin, “I just had to give everything.”

When the Holidays came around, and DDB launched their “Sponsor a Dog for the Holidays” program, Justin decided to sponsor not just one dog but all of them. He gathered his spare change, birthday money and savings – more than $600 in all –to buy treats, dog beds, toys and food for the dogs.

Today Justin is a spokesperson for DDB’s campaign to stop dogs from being chained and tethered.

“They are not just animals,” he said, “they are just like us.”

What do you say? Are young people in your family helping to make the world a better place for animals? Let us know in a comment below or on Facebook.

What you can do: Most humane societies have their own programs for Be Kind to Animals week. The ASPCA suggests Ten Ways to Help Your Local Shelter. And American Humane offers some tips for being good to the wildlife around your home.