Pairing Kids and Pets To Promote Learning

A new educational program is building on children’s natural affinity for animals to encourage kids to be more calm, confident and caring.


The program promotes the virtues of shelter pets—Mutt-i-grees®—and uses them to teach children social and emotional skills.


Developed by North Shore Animal League America’s (NSALA) Pet Savers Foundation in collabora-tion with Yale University School of the 21st Century and funded by the Cesar Millan Foundation, the program is called the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. Based on the emerging field of social and emotional learning, it is designed to help kids manage their emotions, get along with others, acquire empathy and compassion, and discover essential decision-making and teamwork skills.


Recently, actress Renée Felice Smith loaned her time and talent to co-direct and film a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum. Smith, who appears on the CBS series “NCIS: Los Angeles,” was joined by a cast made up of 35 pre-K, elementary, middle and high school student volun-teers. In addition to the human cast, the PSA features several Mutt-i-grees.


The program is now in operation in more than 2,000 schools nationwide and NSALA hopes that the PSA will bring the benefits of the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum to the attention of other school administrators.
Smith said, “The Mutt-i-grees Curriculum leads change by using children’s innate love for animals to teach a very simple lesson: Give love and you shall receive love.”


To view the PSA or to learn more about the program and North Shore Animal League America, visit or

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