The Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum represents a collaboration between the Pet Savers Foundation, Yale University School of the 21st Century (Yale 21C), and the Cesar Millan Foundation. We have been working together for several years, each one of us making a unique yet complementary contribution to the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum —an innovative effort to link social and emotional learning with humane education. We share a common goal: to develop and implement initiatives that support a more humane world where children and adults show empathy, compassion, and responsible decision-making.
Each one of our organizations has had long history in animal welfare and education, showing adults and children how to be humane in a broad sense, by being caring and compassionate to people around us as well as to animals.
At the Pet Savers Foundation, an integral part of the Animal League (Animalleague.org), an organization that has had world-wide impact in the companion animal welfare field, cutting edge programs are developed. The programs, designed to promote pet rescue and adoption, are pilot-tested and then disseminated to shelters nationwide.
In 2008, Pet Savers began a new and significant course of action with the concept of the Mutt-i-gree®—a dog awaiting adoption at a shelter. It launched the American Mutt-i-grees® Club, a web-based initiative that serves to unite mixed-breed dog owners—a group of more than 25 million—to: raise awareness of the plight of shelter animals; elevate the status of shelter dogs and, in particular, mixed-breed dogs, since they represent the vast majority of shelter admissions; increase shelter adoptions and consequently reduce euthanasia rates.
Animal shelters care for six to eight million dogs and cats every year in the United States, of which approximately half are euthanized. Three out of every four shelter dogs are mixed-breed; thus adopting a Mutt-i-gree®from a shelter can help save a life, as well as impact unethical breeders whose operations contribute to the number of animals unnecessarily euthanized.
The American Mutt-i-grees® Club involves children as well. Through its Clubhouse component, it set out to educate children about the unique qualities of shelter animals and value of pet adoption. As part of this educational mission, the Pet Savers Foundation sought the collaboration of Yale School of the 21st Century (Yale21C).
Yale 21C is a school reform program that provides early care, education, and family support from the birth of the child through the school years. 21C schools, also known as Family Resource Centers (FRCs) in some states, are open year-round for extended hours. 21C was conceptualized and developed for national dissemination at the Yale Zigler Center in Child Development and Social Policy. The Yale 21C team leads a network of more than 1,300 schools around the country, coordinates a 21C nationwide peer trainers group, hosts national conferences, and regularly updates its program by adding new components that reflect national and local needs.
One such new addition is 21C’s renewed focus on the whole-child approach to education and its inclusion of a new component on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). The Pet Savers’ goal of using Mutt-i-grees® as a way to introduce the concepts of compassion and social responsibility to children complemented Yale 21C’s efforts and presented an opportunity to collaborate on the development of a Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum featuring Mutt-i-gree® dogs.
These developments coincided with the establishment of the Millan Foundation, which seeks to create and deliver humane education programs and promote the rescue and adoption of shelter dogs. Cesar Millan is world-renowned as the Dog Whisperer. The Foundation was established to provide financial support to animal shelters and organizations engaged in the rescuing, rehabilitating, and re-homing of abused and abandoned animals, and to fund spay/neuter programs to help reduce dog overpopulation. In the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, the Cesar Millan Foundation found not only an innovative approach to humane education but also one that builds on the research base of emotional intelligence and social and emotional learning.
Many of the principles underlying social and emotional learning—such as cultivating confidence, empathy, and compassion—are aligned with the tenets Cesar Millan upholds and complement the overarching mission of the Cesar Millan Foundation. Recognizing the importance of teaching children about ways to interact with dogs and helping every shelter animal find a loving home, the Foundation graciously funded the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum. In addition to funding the Curriculum through the Cesar Millan Foundation, Cesar Millan is personally involved. He is leading an effort to develop a series of lessons on dog behavior that are part of the Mutt-i-grees® Curriculum, and he is visiting Mutt-i-grees® schools, speaking with students, parents and teachers about his hopes for the Curriculum.