The Harris County District Attorney’s Office HOPE (Helping Our Pets through Education) program was created to educate 5th grade students on responsible pet ownership and animal welfare issues. The program involves a one hour presentation, to include education on proper pet care, age-appropriate information on animal cruelty laws, and what to do if the student encounters animal cruelty. The program’s mascot “Hope” will also be present during the presentation, allowing students to interact with a real victim of animal cruelty and to hear her story firsthand. The Office designed the program after seeing a lack of education, a lack of compassion, and the cyclical nature of abuse in many of the Office’s adult cases, and after seeing more and more reports of young people committing animal cruelty. The program is being led by Jessica Milligan, Assistant District Attorney and the Animal Cruelty Section Chief in our office. “We believe that children learn abusive behaviors from their surrounding environments and that if they observe it, they will continue the cycle themselves, if they don’t learn that it’s wrong,” said Milligan. “We also believe that individuals who abuse or neglect animals are more likely to carry on that abuse towards people later in life. Through this program, we hope to break this cycle of abuse by planting seeds of compassion and empathy towards animals at an early age.”
Meet Hope: “Hope” is the mascot for the HOPE program. She is a black Border Collie mix found along the Trinity River at an animal cruelty scene in 2007. A witness saw someone shoot her several times and hit another dog in the head with a machete before getting in a truck and driving away. Hope suffered several gunshot wounds to her leg, chest and face. The witness took Hope and the other dog to an emergency clinic. Soon after, Hope was adopted by the Milligan family. She had to go through several surgeries which included having one leg amputated and several teeth removed from one side of her mouth because of the animal abuse she endured. Today, Hope is a happy, 3-legged dog with different-colored eyes and a burn scar on the side of her body that is shaped like an iron. The remnants of her injuries serve both as a reminder of how far Hope has come, and also help make Hope a symbol of an animal-cruelty survivor.
If you would like to have the HOPE Program in your school, please fill out the request form. Someone from our office will be contacting you soon to schedule a presentation date.