Animal Hero of the Month: Annie Blumenfeld

September’s Animal Hero of the Month is our youngest yet, and she’s a girl on a heartworm mission.

annie-blumenfeld-new-ahom

The September 2014 winner of our Animal Hero of the Month award is Annie Blumenfeld of Wags 4 Hope in Connecticut.

As our youngest Animal Hero award winner, Annie is a teenager who started her charity after rescuing her dog Teddy. Annie and her family fell in love with Teddy’s online listing at Shaggy Dog Rescue and arranged to have him transported from Texas to Connecticut.

Teddy had to endure heartworm treatment, and Annie wanted to help save other dogs from the pain and suffering that it requires, which consists of medication and restrictive movement for 1 month or more. Some dogs do not survive the treatment, which is why she has focused on educating people about heartworm preventatives.

The average cost of heartworm treatment for 1 dog can range from a few hundred dollars to more than $2,000 in severe cases. For comparison, monthly heartworm prevention comes in many forms and carries a cost of around $80 per year per pet depending on weight. For example, a chihuahua would need 1 chewable per month while a 150-pound Great Dane would need 2 larger-dose chewables.

She started Wags 4 Hope to spread awareness, raise money for heartworm treatments for shelter dogs, and to educate children on heartworms and the proper care of animals. She paints animals and has donated and sold more than 250 paintings so far, with all the profits going to shelters. Shelter dogs with heartworms have a chance at treatment and adoption, thanks to Annie.

The Nomination

Annie’s nomination was sent to us by Lisa:

Two years ago Annie started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization called Wags 4 Hope after her rescue dog, Teddy, had a near-death experience with heartworm disease. Her organization works to encourage pet responsibility and to help support shelter animals’ medical needs. Annie works with children in her community to teach them how to properly take care of their pet, and Annie sells her artwork to raise donations for shelters and rescue groups.

She also donates her artwork to hospitals to help brighten the cancer patients’ days. One of Annie’s paintings will be at the Mayo Clinic’s new children’s cancer wing in spring 2015.

Annie created a bill with our state representative that hopes to have pet responsibility education in all the shelters in Connecticut and on the Connecticut dog license. Annie had the opportunity to lobby for her bill at a public hearing, and she is currently working with our state’s Agriculture Department on this issue.

Annie also started a Wags 4 Hope Club at her school to get her peers involved in helping animals in our community. With more than 30 members, they collect toys and food for shelters in our community.

Prizes

Here’s what all of our award winners get:

  • A feature article like this one
  • Social media mentions across all of our platforms
  • A permanent spot on our Wall of Heroes
  • Our custom, engraved gold-tone paw print medal with ribbon shipped to the winner
  • $50 donation (or cash award) from Petful

About Annie’s Organization

Wags 4 Hope raises funds through donations and the sale or auction of Annie’s paintings. Many of them have been donated to shelters, rescues and hospitals for children, as well as sold as auction items for fundraisers or painted on request of a pet parent.

The funds raised go directly to an animal in a shelter needing heartworm treatment.

In addition to spreading awareness, Annie represented Wags 4 Hope when she testified to Connecticut lawmakers about the lack of publicity surrounding heartworms. With state Representative Tony Hwang, together they proposed HB-5422, An Act Concerning Awareness of Heartworm Disease and the Standard Dog Licensing Form. The bill would allow heartworm fliers to be posted in shelters and a reminder about the condition and heartworm test to be placed on dog licensing application forms.

Wags 4 Hope visits with children at elementary schools, museums and libraries to discuss the topic of pet responsibility. It is also a chance for Annie to talk about proper care for pets and her charity’s work on heartworm prevention and awareness.

The educational visits also inform children of how they can help animals and get involved in their local shelters. With any luck, there are a few more Annies in those audiences!

Setting up a nonprofit can be a daunting experience for anyone. Annie had to speak with the IRS, set up a bank account and website, and learn about filing taxes — not the sort of things that teenagers normally worry about. But she is a girl on a mission, and she’s also our hero.

Q&A With Annie Blumenfeld

1. Annie, what got you started helping animals?

I have always been an avid animal lover. After learning about what my beloved rescue dog Teddy had to endure through his heartworm treatment, I knew I could help other dogs by educating pet owners about heartworm disease and that it is avoidable with a monthly preventative.

Ever since I was a little girl, I always painted dogs. In fact, one of my sheepdog paintings was selected for my school’s art show and received such a positive response just a couple of months before we rescued Teddy.

I formed Wags 4 Hope, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. It is here that I educate people globally and give 100 percent of the proceeds through my paintings to animal shelters to help pay for the animals’ medical supplies until they find their forever homes.

2. What’s your earliest childhood memory that is animal-related?

At a very young age I was fascinated with drawing dogs, and I remember looking at one of my favorite childhood books, Biscuit. I loved the spectacular illustrations.

3. How old were you when you got your first animal?

We always had a dog in the house ever since I was born.  Our first dog was a chow chow named Bubba, followed by Duncan, a Polish Lowland sheepdog.

4. What is your favorite animal?

I love and cherish all animals, but I feel an extra connection to dogs — especially rescues.

5. Tell us about the one animal you will never forget.

I will always remember my dog Duncan, who passed away from cancer just weeks before his ninth birthday. Duncan fought to the very end and showed such courage and strength.

6. What are the least and highest amounts of pets you have had at one time?

I have always had just one dog at a time in my house and a bowl with a few goldfish that were my brothers’ pets.

7. If your pets could talk, what would they say?

My dog Teddy would thank me for saving him and ask for fresh ice water, more treats, and lots of tickles to his furry tummy.

8. If you could solve one problem facing animals, what would it be?

That all dogs be protected from heartworm disease, and I hope to see more people rescue and adopt pets from a shelter.

9. If you could be reincarnated as any animal, which would you choose and why?

I would be a service dog and bring lots of love and compassion to those in need.

10. If the rainbow bridge exists, which pet would you most like to see waiting for you on the other side?

I would like to see my dog Duncan. He died from cancer while I was at school. I would like to express my love to him and let him know how proud I am of his strength and courage through his illness.

Kristine Lacoste

View posts by Kristine Lacoste
Kristine Lacoste, editor in chief of Petful, is an author, poet and pet lover from Louisiana. She is the author of an award-nominated book, One Unforgettable Journey, and was host of a weekly pet news segment on the National K-9 Academy Radio Show. She was the New Orleans coordinator for Dogs on Deployment, a nonprofit that helps military members and their pets, for 3 years. She is also employed as chief operating officer for a large mental health practice in Louisiana. Kristine has a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a bachelor’s degree in English and a Master of Business Administration degree.

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