While many young adults are preoccupied with updating their Instagram and taking selfies, there are many rising teens who are focused on making the world a better place. 14-year-old Hannah Testa created a plastic pollution awareness day to help combat plastic pollution. And then there’s 15-year-old Avalon Theisen who is urging the world to ditch meat to help the environment.

For full-time Cornell student Annie Blumenfeld, her passion is to help shelter animals through her non-profit organization, Wags 4 Hope. Annie was in 8th grade when she learned her adored rescue dog Teddy, never had treatment for his heartworm condition when he was at a high-kill shelter in Texas prior to adoption. In recovery, Teddy had to be placed in a crate and stabilized with arsenic injections for over a month. 

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Teddy’s predicament made young Annie realize that thousands of other dogs and cats in animal shelters across the country are not as lucky and don’t have the opportunity to get the help they need. Nearly half of all animals that arrive in U.S. shelters are euthanized because there is a lack of space and adopters, amounting to roughly 2.7 million dead animals every year or five out of every ten dogs and seven out of every ten cats – that’s roughly 80,000 animals per week.

So Annie decided to do something. Having a natural talent for painting, she wondered how she could use her talent to help animals. One of Annie’s first paintings was featured and sold in a local art show, which naturally led Annie to start painting commissioned pet portraits.

In just the six years since founded Wags 4 Hope, Annie has painted 350 portraits in 22 states. All of the money is given directly to animal shelters

 
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Speaking to One Green Planet via email, Annie shared that many of the commissioned paintings are done for individuals who have lost a pet and want to memorialize them. In one particularly touching story, Annie shared how one of her paintings was done for someone who was hospitalized after an accident. The painting was kept on their hospital bedside and gave them strength during their difficult situation. “It is so wonderful to see that there is often two sides of my artwork in that not only are shelter/rescue animals being helped, but I can put a smile on the pet owners’ faces as well,” Annie said.

Annie was named Operation Hope‘s first Pet Ambassador, where she supplies pet food for their pantry for low-income families who need help affording pet food. 

 

SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy pet food, causing many struggling families to have to make difficult decisions, such as surrendering the petConsidering the statistics, one of the best ways to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis is to first try to keep pets in their homes and out of the shelter system.

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In addition to painting pet portraits and her work with Operation Hope, Annie started a Wag 4 Hope Club at her high school when she was just a freshman. The goal of the club is to focus on helping local shelter animals and rescue groups. One of the goals Annie has for Wags 4 Hope is to start the clubs in schools and universities across the country due to the increasingly high need for help by animal rescues and shelters.

“Through Wags 4 Hope, I continue to learn and explore creative avenues for helping animals while saving their lives,” Annie told Forbes

 

How You Can Help

Annie gave the best advice when asked what she would tell someone who wants to get involved in animal rescue, “just get started!”

“There are many different ways to become involved in helping animals from adopting a rescue to sharing an animal advocacy awareness post on social media,” Annie shared.

Not sure where to start? The most important thing you can do to help animals in shelters is to adopt and encourage others to do the same. With so many animals already needing homes, there’s no reason to purchase from a breeder.

If you’re looking for other ways to help shelter animals, check out these suggestions.

  • Share this article with your friends and encourage them to adopt.
  • Help dispel the myths surrounding shelter pets and adoption.
  • Give shelter workers a hand by volunteering at your local animal shelter.
  • Sign up to foster an animal while they wait to find their forever family.
  • Donate money, food, toys or other pet care essentials to a shelter or rescue organization.

For more information on how you can get your furry friend painting by Annie, check out the Wags 4 Hope website. You’ll get an awesome portrait AND you’ll be helping shelter animals!

Image Source: Wags 4 Hope