Monday, December 22, 2008

“A Cause for Paws” Gives Students a Way to Combat Puppy Mill Cruelty

The Humane Society of the United States' youth division has launched a new project, "A Cause for Paws," to guide young people in promoting improved conditions for dogs in puppy mills and raising awareness about how to get a dog without supporting cruelty. Part of the Mission: Humane program that gets K-12 students actively involved in the work of The HSUS, "A Cause for Paws" engages youth in making a difference for dogs while they learn academic skills.

The holidays are a time when many people decide to bring a puppy home. Students working with The HSUS are hoping to raise awareness of what goes on behind the pet store window and encourage prospective new dog owners to adopt from local shelters or rescue groups instead of buying from pet stores and Internet sites that, in most cases, are supplied by puppy mills.

The HSUS raided six puppy mills in 2008, bringing rescue to more than 2,000 dogs kept in horrific conditions. Dogs living in these mass dog breeding operations receive little or no exercise or veterinary care. Life is particularly bad for the adult dogs who live their entire lives in cages, without human companionship and with little hope of ever becoming part of a family.

In the wake of recent rescues and the investigation into Petland Inc., the country's largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores that has been tied to puppy mills, young people are asking what they can do to help.

"We are hearing from more and more children across the country who love dogs and are appalled at the way dogs in puppy mills are treated," said Heidi O'Brien, director of outreach for The HSUS' youth division. "They want to know how they can help. Young people can be powerful advocates and it's our goal to guide them in turning their outrage into something positive."

"A Cause for Paws" shows young people how to make their voices heard by their legislators to establish stronger laws to protect dogs. It also directs students in spreading the word to classmates, family and friends about how to steer clear of puppy mills when they make the decision to bring a dog into their family. Activities such as letter-writing and presenting to groups aligns the project—which is offered at two levels for elementary and high school students--to state and national education standards.

High school and elementary students can access step-by-step project instructions online, download a fact sheet, and then submit their work to earn a Mission: Humane T-shirt.

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