High School Student Takes Heartworm Awareness to State Legislature
Annie Blumenfeld is a high school sophomore committed to raising awareness of heartworm disease in dogs.
Two years ago she started Wags 4 Hope, a nonprofit through which she raised about $15,000 – much of it through the sale of some 225 original paintings of pets whose proceeds are donated to animal shelters.
More recently, she took her mission to the Connecticut State Legislature, testifying in support of a bill that, if passed, will require that dog licensing forms contain a check-off box indicating that the pet receives preventative heartworm medication.
The 16-year-old, who spends about two hours a day on Wags4Hope activities, is the catalyst of the proposed legislation, after writing her state represenative, Tony Hwang. “I share my story, and my goal for Connecticut to be the leading state in pet responsibility,” says Annie, who hopes to study politics and busines sin college. "The Connecticut Dog License has not been changed in seven years, and there will be a new license with a pet responsibility message that I created to encourage pet owners about preventative care.”
Her mission began after her family adopted a dog from a Texas shelter. Teddy was diagnosed with heartworm disease, transmitted through the bite of a mosquito that results in a species of roundworms living in the arteries and surrounding blood vessels of the lungs and heart. Left untreated, heartworm disease can be fatal but it’s largely preventable – yet nearly half of dogs in the U.S. are left unprotected.
Although Teddy received injections of arsenic, was confined to a crate for nearly two months, and subjected to multiple trips to the veterinarian, Annie discovered that preventing the disease with chewable tablets is much easier than curing it.
“The mission of my organization is to spread heartworm disease awareness, and at the same time support shelter animals’ medical needs,” says Annie, who plans to study politics and business in college. Through her website, she sells paintings – most of family pets purchased by “everyday pet owners” for about $30 – and that money goes to animal shelters selected by either the buyer or Annie. “When I donate to local shelters, it mainly goes to feed the animals, toys and blankets.”