- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 27, 2001

Denise Barnes interviewed Antwonye Kirkpatrick, founder and president of D.C. Youngsters Against Animal Cruelty.
Question: Why did you take up the cause on behalf of animals and start D.C. Youngsters Against Animal Cruelty (YAAC)?
Answer: I started visiting animal shelters because I love animals, and I wanted to learn about them and about animal-protection issues. I wanted to pitch in any way that I could. But, at the time, I was 12 years old and much to young to volunteer at any of the District organizations. So, I founded D.C. Youngsters Against Animal Cruelty in 1999.
I had heard about two animal cruelty cases in Washington the first one involved youth setting a dog on fire. In the second case, young people witnessed a man beating a dog. Those were the types of inhumane acts against animals that prompted me to get involved. I set out to teach young people not to commit violent acts against animals. Kids don't benefit from abusive treatment and neither do animals.
Q: How do you and the members of your organization reach young people with your message?
A: We promote the organization through direct mailings and on our Web site (www. expage.com/yaac). We also go into schools to talk with students about animal cruelty, and we lecture at after-school programs in the District. For example, we talk to young people who attend "After School for All," a District-based program that's centered around technology, but guest speakers are invited in to talk about different subjects.
When we go into schools or lecture at after-schools programs, a humane educator and I talk about the link between animal cruelty and child abuse. I've learned that most young people who go into schools and commit violent acts against their classmates have prior cases of animal cruelty on their records. And, a few of these youngsters have been abused at home.
When I lecture [to high school students], I use the 1999 Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colo., to emphasize the point that a few of the students involved had been abused or had been cruel to animals.
For example, one of the students killed his neighbor's cat. No one saw the signs, and no one got him any help. His hostility escalated to violence against human beings.
So, we center our talks around the Humane Society's First Strike Campaign to teach lessons to young people. First Strike is a program that researches the link between the two [abusive] behaviors and how they can be prevented. Most importantly, it focuses on what young people can do to help. During the presentations, we also talk about a vegetarian lifestyle and about careers working with animals.
Q: How do you gear your presentations for younger audiences to teach them about compassion toward animals?
A: Well, if it's an elementary school group, I'll start out with a Be Kind to Animals worksheet. That's basically, a worksheet where they can write down their feelings about animals. The lectures run about 45 minutes, and if time permits, the children read what they've written. But their teachers keep their lists and read them. I don't talk about the violence against people with the elementary school groups.
Q: What can young people do to prevent animal cruelty?
A: They can become active in their communities by getting involved with a local animal-rights group or by attending volunteer work parties that's when people come together and volunteer for a local organization and it's a lot of fun. The Fund for Animals in Silver Spring is a popular volunteer work party. There are lots of things young people can do to advocate for animals. They can make posters to promote compassion towards animals. Start a club at their school and they can report animal cruelty when they see it to the Humane Society.
Q: Are you a vegetarian?
A: This year I started practicing a vegetarian lifestyle, and I'm still kind of new at it, but I'm on the road to becoming a vegan. I don't eat any animals, and I'm working on cutting out animal products like milk, eggs and cheese. I think vegetarian lifestyles are much healthier, and I believe it would prevent some of the suffering of animals. Just imagine, 20 chickens living in one cramped coop or five or six cows living in the same stall.
To me, that's inhumane because the quarters are too small for that number of animals. And, I think a vegetarian lifestyle would add longevity to a person's lifetime and prevent a lot of diseases.
Q: When you're not lecturing at schools, what are some of the other ways you advocate for animals?
A: Along with running D.C. Youngsters Against Animal Cruelty, I help out with animal adoptions. I do development work for the Washington Humane Society and other animal rights organizations in the District.
Last summer I worked as a developmental intern at the Washington Humane Society, where I processed donations and assisted around the office wherever help was needed I did kennel work and that's where I help out with animal adoptions.
Q: How fulfilling is the work to you?
A: It's great. I've found something that I like to do, and young people enjoy doing this type of work. It's one of the hardest jobs to have because you see different aspects of life and the different ways animals are treated. But, what I especially enjoy is meeting people from different backgrounds who have the same interests. Of course, our mission is to foster in young people a sentiment of kindness towards animals. We do that through our humane education program and community outreach.
Q: Is there any special requirement to join D.C. Youngsters Against Animal Cruelty?
A: No. Just that you have a love for animals and a sincere desire to promote compassion towards animals at all times. When a person joins the organization, they agree to report any cases of cruelty that they might see. That's it. That is all that's required.

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