“Breaking the Chain”
An educational project called Breaking the Chain, with its message about the unhappy lives of chained dogs and how third-grade children can help end the cycle of canine misery, recently celebrated its eighth year in the Maricopa County (Arizona) Public schools.
Humane education benefits children by improving their outlook on society. Teaching children about kindness to animals may nurture the next generation of compassionate, thoughtful leaders. Pam Gaber, president and founder of Gabriel’s Angels, a therapy dog group that focuses on abused, abandoned and at-risk children in the Phoenix area says, “Any time we teach a child humane treatment of animals we help develop gentler children. How we treat and respect animals reflects on us as a society. Breaking the Chain teaches children the importance of animals in our lives and how to treat them with respect.”
Breaking the Chain is based on a simple writing and art contest in which children find creative solutions for rescuing Joey, a chained dog, with the help of the great Harriet, the neighbor’s cat. The contest shows children that showing care and compassion for animals may lead to a more humane world for everyone.
Although Joey is a fictional character, children learn that chained dogs live a miserable existence, often suffering from exposure to blistering summers, frigid winters, and thunderstorms. They often lack adequate food and water. Without human companionship, dogs can become vicious. Chained dogs kill and seriously injure children every year. Sometimes misguided teenage miscreants abuse chained dogs, further exacerbating their agony.
Laura Lyman, a winner of the Milken National Educator Award and teacher at Ishikawa Elementary School in Mesa, Arizona says, “I love this contest because it teaches kids the importance of caring for our pets. Children become more compassionate human beings when they care for someone or something. I know the children learned a lesson from it.”
Breaking the Chain won admiration from Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano and Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon who added their endorsements with proclamations for the contest. So did Thelda Williams, section commander of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.
At least seven hundred students entered poignant stories about Joey and how the great Harriet freed him from his chains. The top story grabbed the judges because of the writer’s concern for animals and her creative skills.
The artwork showed extra- ordinary empathy as well. The winning entry, shown above, depicts a chained dog outside in a yard. The caption reads: Animals are people too, they need everything we need, especially love.
Breaking the Chain is an educational project of the Phoenix Animal Care Coalition (PACC 911). PACC 911 founder and president Bari Mears says, “The contest is a start to make children develop sensitivity for animals. We are hoping to create a kinder, gentler generation.” Breaking the Chain is also backed by the Arizona Animal Welfare League, Maricopa County Animal Care and Control, the Maricopa County Maddie’s Fund Pet Care Project, and It’s a Ruff Life Dog Day Care.
The Puffin Foundation, Petsmart Charities, and private sources funded the 2007 contest.
The contest has carved a niche in the Maricopa County public school system. Not only does the contest teach empathy to animals, but some students wrote of compassion to each other. In a violent society, who can argue with that?