Annie Blumenfeld’s thoughts on dogs have varied across her lifetime; although she used to fear dogs, she now owns a business for them. Several years after being attacked by her childhood dog Duncan in elementary school, she started Wags 4 Hope, a nonprofit with a mission of promoting the wellness of pets across the world.
Blumenfeld was inspired to start her nonprofit after her experience with another family dog. When she was in eighth grade, her family decided to rescue a dog from a high-kill shelter in Texas. They welcomed Teddy into their home, a dog that was at the top of the shelter’s list to be euthanized because he had heartworm disease, which is spread by mosquitoes. After researching that heartworm disease is preventable, Blumenfeld found plenty of preventative measures animal owners can take to keep their pets from struggling.
At the same time, Blumenfeld painted a picture of Duncan that was featured in a local art show. At the show, two women approached Blumenfeld asking if she could paint their dog. “In the backseat of the car ride home from the show, Wags 4 Hope was born,” she explained. She decided to donate all of her profits to shelters and spreading awareness about preventive care for animals. These proceeds are donated to shelters around the world.
So far, Blumenfeld has painted three hundred pictures of pets, and the number is growing. “I’m not a professional artist, but knowing I can do something keeps me going,” she explained. In addition to selling her portraits, Blumenfeld has visited museums to talk to children about how to take care of their pets. In the future, she would like Wags 4 Hope to partnering with local organizations in her hometown to support those who financially cannot care for their animals.
One unique aspect of Wags 4 Hope is Blumenfeld uses the business to advocate for local change in her community. In her home state of Connecticut, everyone is required to register their dogs once a year with the state. In March 2014, she wrote letters and appeared in front of the state legislature educating lawmakers about heartworm disease in dogs and the way it can prevented. She urged them to add a sentence to the registration form acknowledging heartworm disease and preventative measures. Her efforts paid off, and the statement she suggested was added.
Balancing both school and having a business is something many student entrepreneurs struggle with, but it is something Annie has creatively managed. Wags 4 Hope has initiated partnerships with Unilever, Priceline.com, Whole Foods, and VIDA, among other companies to help shelter and rescue animals across the country. The company was recently named a finalist to the Ceva Animal Health Awards for making a difference in the UK and internationally for animals.
For Blumenfeld, impact is most important, and she is having a large one each painting at a time.
To keep up with Wags 4 Hope, follow it on Facebook.