In recent weeks, we’ve been asking MUTTS readers to share stories about how Guard Dog has inspired them to help animals. One of the responses came from a young animal advocate named Ethan, who wrote:
“Guard Dog has inspired me to start a kids animal advocacy club for me and my friends to help make things better for animals when we are running the country in a few years. We learn about animal welfare, civics, how to contact our representatives, and a lot of other stuff. … I promise, we will work hard to make the world better for animals when we are grown!”
We were so inspired by Ethan that we reached out to learn more. His mom Miche told us that when he was younger, around eight years old, he made his own comic strips to help local shelter animals get adopted — just like MUTTS!
We spoke with Ethan and Miche through email, and we’re honored to share the following interview with the rest of our MUTTS community. We hope Ethan’s story will encourage more animal lovers (of all ages) to pursue their passions and make a positive difference in the world.
Hi, Ethan! We’d love to hear more about your Youth Animal Advocacy Project. How did it begin?
The Junior Animal Advocacy Project is a group I started after trying to get state legislation passed for a few years. The purpose of the project is to help teach kids how to be citizen advocates.
I started it because I have been trying to get rescue pets named the state pet of Kentucky and I realized that if we want to help animals we need to educate the future change makers so we can create a better world for animals. I’m still trying to make rescue pets the state pet, and I’m working on getting a national pet symbol, too. (If any legislators want to help with that I would love to talk to them!)
How does the Advocacy Project work, and what kind of activities do you do?
We meet online two or three times per week. We have kids from all over the country and a couple of other countries. One or two meetings are with special guests and in the other meeting I teach a lesson about civics and advocacy. Our speakers are amazing. We have had speakers from the Cousteau Society, the Rainforest Trust, a shark researcher from South Africa, people from HSUS and the Wildcat Sanctuary, and so many others.
We just finished up a project where we built our own mock animal shelter. We learned how to write a mission statement, we applied for jobs in the shelter, and picked employees. We developed an operating budget and designed the floor plan for our shelter. It was interesting and fun but hard figuring out how to budget everything. It was eye-opening to see how hard shelters have to work.
We're getting ready to start on our issue advocacy. Some of the issues kids are addressing are poaching, ending pet overpopulation, and ending animal abuse. We will contact legislators, and present our issues to our classes at school or clubs. We are also planning a rally at the Kentucky State Capitol in January where we will talk about our issues.
How can other kids get involved in the group?
Kids can get involved by emailing info@EYAAP.org. We're still working on our website, but next year we are hoping to have it up and running with educational activities and lessons for other kids or teachers who want to help animals.
Any other personal animal projects or experiences you’d like to tell us about?
I used to make a newscast called the Rescue Report and I interviewed some interesting people like Charlotte Maxwell-Jones from Kabul Small Animal Rescue and even the governor of Kentucky Andy Beshear! That's on YouTube.
I also testified in the state house committee in Kentucky for my rescue pet legislation, and was on the floor of the house when the bill passed the first year. (It never passed the Senate though, and my bill hasn't made it out of committee since 2020.)
We understand that you’ve been a fan of MUTTS for a long time. How has MUTTS inspired you to help animals?
MUTTS has inspired me to try to give a voice to animals that don't have one.
Do you have a favorite MUTTS character?
My favorite character is Doozy because she is a kid and she loves animals. She is kind and wants to help. I would love to have a friend just like her. I want her to join the Junior Advocates! She is already doing it!
What does Guard Dog mean to you, and what are your hopes for him?
To me, Guard Dog symbolizes all the animals that are chained or constantly in cages and can't enjoy their life. I hope Guard Dog gets help and ends up in a new, kind, loving home with Doozy. I want Doozy to adopt Guard Dog. That would be really nice for him. And it would show that kids can help if people just listen to us.
Do you have any pets? If so, we’d love to hear about them.
I have two, Hank and Dixie. Hank is a rescued bull terrier we adopted from Rescue Revolution of Mississippi. Hank is lazy but playful. He likes to sleep under blankets a lot because he gets cold with his short fur. We don't know what Dixie is but she looks like an Italian greyhound. She is a rescue and we adopted her in August from L.I.F.E. House for Animals. Like Hank, she is chaotic and energetic and cute and cuddly.
What advice or tips do you have for other kids who want to help animals?
I know to a lot of kids it may feel like you don't have a voice because you're young, but it doesn't mean you can't make a difference. Even just visiting animals in a shelter or making toys helps. A big thing you can do is get involved. Learn about things. Learn how the legislative process works. Right now it's kind of boring, but one day we will be in charge. We owe it to animals (and everyone else!) to learn about it and make sure that we know how to help when it's our turn. One day soon it will be.