This year, we presented The Humane Leadership Awards to both Michael Tountasakis, principal of Harris Middle School in Spruce Pine, North Carolina, and Ailene Mitchell, principal of MS 88 Peter Rouget School in Brooklyn, New York. During the last academic year, these two educators collaborated —bridging an almost 700-mile distance — to have their students be directly involved with a humane relocation of dogs and cats from Spruce Pine to North Shore Animal League America’s New York campus. This single event demonstrates the power of the Curriculum to save lives, create connections, and pave the way to a more humane future.

Principal Tountasakis and Principal Mitchell are among the many educators with Mutt-i-grees School Dogs, who are using the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum®. These two leaders are among the best innovators of the program.

“We’ve been participating in the Mutt-i-grees program for five years. We’ve integrated the Curriculum into our Media Literacy and Library Programs,” said Principal Mitchell.

Principal Mitchell has also brought their School Dogs, Petey and Bailey, into situations when the students are in crisis and then created follow-up opportunities where the dogs connect again with the students. Other schools have visited MS 88 to see how their practices have integrated the Curriculum and it’s empowered them to bring the program to their own schools.

Principal Tountasakis of Harris Middle School saw the potential with the Curriculum right away and along came Mutt-i-grees School Dog, Ruby, who began her service in the fall of 2018. She’s made a big difference in the lives of many students. The school also created The Harris Animal Rescue Team (HART) so middle school students could volunteer at the Mitchell County Animal Rescue on a regular basis. HART is popular and the program has already expanded. Their school, with Mutt-i-grees Student Ambassador Ian Burleson, spearheaded the humane relocation bringing together a group of students who prepared the animals for the transport from Mitchell County, who were then met and welcomed by students of MS 88, Principal Mitchell’s school at Animal League America. The incredible teamwork between the students at the two schools directly led to 23 animals being saved and getting adopted into responsible, loving homes.