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The CritterKin App ~ Teaching Kids How to Care for Pets



From Victim to Victor - North Carolina Puppy Mill Survivors Celebrated in New Mobile App for Kids

A new mobile app being developed by Startled Cat, Inc. will use illustrations of puppy mill survivors to educate kids about humane pet care


Meet Ricky Bobby, a tiny 6lb. bundle of dachshund energy. One of the first things you'll notice about him is his soft brown eyes. The second will undoubtedly be the miniature cart he uses to support his hind legs as he zips along behind his person, Megan Bliss. Ricky's back legs are paralyzed, the result of a hardened disc left untreated for years  in the puppy mill from which he was rescued, but his remarkable recovery and joie de vivre have become symbols for what can be accomplished when people come together to right a wrong.


"Ricky's story was first brought to my attention by Kim Alboum of the Humane Society," says Jena Ball, the writer and illustrator leading the CritterKin creative team. He was one of the dogs the HSUS and SPCA of Wake County, NC rescued in their latest puppy mill bust. She knew I was looking for a special needs dog to include in the CritterKin pack of puppies, and sent me videos of him as he was learning to use his cart. I knew I wanted to illustrate him as soon as I saw the sweet trusting expression on his face.”


Ball and the Startled Cat team are not only illustrating Ricky, but plan to create lessons based on his narrative for the CritterKin app as well. "Ricky's story is inspiring, but it's also a great opportunity to teach kids an invaluable lesson about empathy and humane behavior," says Martin Keltz, the Emmy award winning producer of The Magic School Bus and former President and co-founder of Scholastic Productions. "If we imagine Ricky as a child with a learning disability or physical challenge, it's not hard to see how he could be ostracized or even bullied. By including Ricky in CritterKin, and giving kids a chance to learn about and play with him, we will be teaching compassion and respect for differences. "

Basically, CritterKin will be an app that educates kids (and indirectly their parents) about responsible pet care. It uses fun, interactive games and activities to make learning fun, and includes a parent guide that encourages the whole family to get involved. We believe that education is the key to changing the lives of shelter animals everywhere, so our goals are to:

- Educate about adoption and basic pet care

- Help kids learn important values such as respect for life, empathy and responsibility

- Encourage adoption of shelter pets into forever homes

- And of course discourage animal abuses such as puppy mills and dog fighting



The CritterKin app teaches the basics of pet care through fun, interactive games, puzzles and stories. Kids log into the app to do daily chores and take their dogs to the CritterKin Dog Park for class. At the park, they learn about how to care for their dog, but other important lessons about things like canine body language, flea and tick prevention, and why dogs shouldn’t eat chocolate.



“My hope is that CritterKin can bring the kinds of lessons I teach about in my classes at the SPCA of Wake County to a broader audience,” says Vanessa Budnick, the Humane Educator collaborating on the CritterKin curriculum with Startled Cat. “We believe that the key to ending puppy mills and getting dogs adopted into forever homes is education. What better way to educate kids than a fun, interactive and affordable app?”




To learn how you can get copies of the Ricky Bobby print and support CritterKin’s  Kickstarter campaign visit or call Jena Ball at 919-535-8472. 

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