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Larson Middle School students lead charge to make shelter pets the official state pet

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published April 24, 2019

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TROY — Two years ago, Larson Middle School English teacher Cindy Christiansen’s sixth-graders looked at things happening in the world and saw that service and shelter animals are the designated state symbols and pets in other states.

They wondered how they could make that happen in Michigan.

So they researched.

They talked with people from the Michigan Humane Society and the Royal Oak Animal Shelter, and with then-state Rep. Martin Howrylak, R-Troy.

The result was House Bill 5069, which Howrylak introduced on Oct. 5, 2017. It was referred to the Government Operations Committee.

“Incredibly, the research we did is the language of the bill,” Christiansen said. “It got stuck in committee last time.”

So she and the core 20-25 students, now eighth-graders, were thrilled when state Rep. Padma Kuppa, D-Troy, dusted it off and reintroduced it.

“It’s the same exact bill,” Christiansen said, adding that the eighth-graders who started the initiative visit her current class to explain what it’s all about.

Kuppa introduced the revived legislation as House Bill 4455 April 11. It was again referred to the Government Operations Committee.

In a prepared statement, Kuppa said, “According to the Humane Society of the United States, 6 (million) to 8 million animals end up in shelters and rescues each year. It is estimated that as many as half will not be adopted. If HB 4455 is passed, Michigan will join California, Ohio, Colorado, Illinois and a growing number of states raising awareness for shelter and rescue animals by designating them as their official state pet.”

“It shows kids that what you’re learning in class transfers to the real world,” Christiansen said. “Being able to read and write well — I want them to know those skills make a difference. We’re super appreciative of Rep. Kuppa’s renewed attention.

“We are hoping the kids realize they are citizens of the world,” she added. “They might just be sixth-graders, but their voice matters.”

“I am looking into what more I can do to move it forward,” Kuppa said of HB 4455. “This is how you teach children the importance of advocacy.”