Awareness and compassion are the keys to bringing change to our shelter systems. A staggering eight to ten million dogs, cats, kittens, and puppies enter shelters around the U.S. each year. To keep the shelter population under control an estimated four million are destroyed. That is over 10,000 a day. Some of these are trouble animals with issues too severe to be place safely in a home, but not all. Rescue groups have made amazing strides to help shoulder the burden of shelters.
One group, the North Shore Animal League, has taken their outreach a step farther. The Muttigree Curriculum is a program that engages students to improve social and emotional competence, academic performance, awareness of shelter pets. Through activities promoting social skills, teamwork and problem solving skills children through teens discover critical skills that support social and self-awareness. Various kits focus on different age ranges, customizing the content to be age appropriate. These kits are tailored to be used by schools, shelters, libraries, and other community organizations to raise awareness while providing a valuable educational experience.
The program focuses on five key themes: Achieving Awareness, Finding Feelings, Encouraging Empathy, Cultivating Cooperation, and Dealing with Decisions. School curriculums include scripted lesson plans, discussion prompts, hands on activities, and opportunities for expression. Alternatively, there is also have a physical education curriculum that encourages fitness, discussing the benefits of exercise to maintaining both physical and mental health both for people and for pets. Library kits come equipped with crafts, family activities, stories, and books about shelter pets. All of them have a dual focus on children and animals and include education on humane treatment on animals.
To raise awareness of this program North Shore Animal League also created the Muttigree Movement to educate the public about the amazing positives of rescued animals and, in particular, mutts. Mutts are less likely to suffer from genetic defects that can be found in their purebred counterparts. As far as temperament and personality, they are as varied as the people who adopt them. When getting a mutt it is about the individual not the breed.
As a doting owner of a purebred rescue and two mutts, I love them all equally. (Of course, on a given day, I tend to love the one who isn’t being a troublemaker a little more.) Pedigree while impressive doesn’t make a pup more endearing. Each pup, papered or not, deserves a happy home with a family to call their own. Before going to get an animal from a breeder consider rescuing from a shelter or a rescue group. Petfinder has an amazing listing for rescues across the country including breed specialized groups.
If you are one of the proud owners of these second-chance wonders, either feline or canine, you can register your pet on the Muttigree site. In exchange, you get to ensure your pet is recorded in the history of rescues and get a fun certificate with your pet’s name. Regardless if you register or not, thank you for saving a life. Programs like the Muttigree Curriculum will raise awareness in the next generation, teaching them about the needs of shelter pets, providing a vital step towards kindling change in for our overburdened shelter system.