Did you know that there’s a program for tween girls to learn animal rights activism and leadership skills by taking care of rescue puppies? Ummmmmm, why didn’t this exist when we were kids? The program is called Unleashed, and it’s helping empower the future generation. Also, puppies!!!!!
Unleashed is a twelve-week leadership program for middle-school girls that uses dogs to teach about animal welfare and animal rights. It gives the girls the tools to advocate for issues they care about, dog-related or not.
Unleashed has 13 participating schools in NYC, has led over 300 girls through their curriculum, and has contributed to the rescue of over 375 puppies since its founding in 2010.
“Unleashed is sometimes confusing to people, because it’s a social change program, and it’s a animal rescue program, and a girl empowerment program. And somehow this works perfectly,” says one of its students at an Unleashed event in the video below.
“If I said, ‘Girls, who wants to do a leadership program?’ There would be no hands raised,” says Dr. Stacey Radin, founder of Unleashed. Radin is a clinical psychologist and has spent ten years work as an “executive coach”, mostly advising women in positions of power in Fortune 500 companies.
She has found that women’s perceptions of power begin earlier than their careers, earlier than college, when girls are young and wary of appearing aggressive or powerful. It was obvious to Radin that a program aimed at making girls understand and utilize their power effectively must happen when they are at their most vulnerable–when they are ten, eleven, twelve years old.
Unleashed rescues their dogs from crowded rural shelters where rates of euthanasia are high and adoption rates are low. The pups stay in foster homes in NYC and participate in weekly sessions with the Unleashed girls until they are adopted.
Radin quickly realized that including puppies in the experience facilitates discussions about issues with puppy mills, shelters, and rescues. In short, working with puppies encourages the girls to think about an issue they’re passionate about–in this case, dogs–and try to advocate for solutions, and by extension, themselves. We think that’s the definition of pawsome.