An eighth-grade Northside Middle School student is working to raise awareness about the importance of adopting animals who need loving homes.

Erica Bishop, 13, volunteers at the city’s Animal Care Services shelter every Monday, something she’s done over the last few years. She decided she wanted to raise awareness about dogs at the shelter in an attempt to get them into permanent homes.

The teenager organized the Human Walking Project in Mill Race Park on Sept. 8 for the second year in a row. The event invited members of the public to walk and meet dogs from the shelter at the park. The event, which was created last year, was developed after Bishop noticed something online that was done in Australia that proved to be popular.

Nine dogs ranging from a treeing walker coonhound to a mini pinscher were brought to the park as a way to gain public awareness about the various dogs available for adoption.

Bishop, who plans to attend Columbus North High School, said she hopes the Human Walking Project can highlight the animals who need homes. She is considering a career as a veterinarian or working with an animal rescue organization.

“I’m hoping this will be a very good senior project documenting everything, taking pictures and showing how it affected the community and how we helped so much with getting dogs adopted and raising awareness for dogs that are in shelters,” Bishop said.

 

She posted flyers around her school and also brought fellow eighth-grader Halie Denney, who attends Central Middle School, to help with the project. Among the individuals walking dogs this year were Centra Credit Union employees Shannon Schroder and Karin Knotts, who learned about the event while they were on their lunch break.

Schroder said she decided to participate as a way to support Bishop’s efforts.

“I think it’s awesome,” Schroder said. “I think it would be good to get the word out more.”

Bishop’s mother, Lisa Bishop, said she’s proud of her daughter for her continued efforts in trying to help animals find a new home. More than 60 people helped walk dogs last year, while six animal adoptions were filed.

This year, the event brought 30 people and resulted in one dog being adopted. Forty dollars in donations was also collected that will go to the Houston Humane Society.

“She has a great love for animals and I think that’s a wonderful thing,” her mother said. “I feel like anything to help the community be stronger and getting people out for exercise and help people find a home for animals creates a happy and healthier community, which is what we all want,” she said.

Her father, Eric Bishop, also commended his daughter for her ongoing work.

“I think it’s great that she’s taken an interest in something that’s not self-serving, but serving others and serving dogs,” he said.

Alyssia Burriss, a supervisor at Animal Care Services, said the Human Walking Project is a good way to highlight the city’s Animal Care Services shelter even if the dogs don’t get permanent homes right away.

“We don’t generally count on them being adopted, but it’s just showing people that we’re not always the bad guy,” Burriss said.

Erica Bishop said she hopes to see the event grow on a much larger scale into the future, pointing out the importance of having a dog as a life-long companion.

“You can have a friend, someone to talk to even if they can’t speak back to you,” she said.