At just 16 years old, Ariela Robinson has accomplished more than many people do in a lifetime. Early this past summer, she became a Gold Award Girl Scout, the most prestigious honor the organization gives to teenaged girls who make a positive and lasting difference in their communities. An animal lover since early childhood, Ariela’s project focused on helping shelter and rescue animals. After receiving her award, she decided to turn her project into a non-profit organization called Reducing Animal Stress, which launched in June 2023 with the help and support of her mother, Michele.
“I saw how sad the animals were in the shelters and I wanted to help,” Ariela says. Her goal, and that of her non-profit, is to make life better for these animals. “I collect and make items to donate to the shelters and rescues. These include enrichment items, such as blankets and toys, to reduce the animals’ stress.” Ariela explains that anxiety and stress can raise the risk of illness and behavioral problems in shelter and rescue animals, making them less likely to be adopted.
Other local organizations, such as the Culver City Woman’s Club, help out by collecting items for Reducing Animal Stress. “Some of the items we collect and donate include food puzzles, blankets, toys, beds, hideaway houses, cat privacy screens, and sock warmers,” says Ariela. “We also make our own enrichment toys and blankets.”
Reducing Animal Stress currently works with about 30 shelters and rescues around the Greater Los Angeles area, including the Santa Monica Animal Shelter and many LA City shelters. “We work with mostly local organizations, but also travel to different areas for events, fairs and festivals,” says Ariela. Not only does her non-profit donate enrichment items for the animals; they also make and hand out adoption kits and help at adoption events.
Public education is another important part of Reducing Animal Stress. “We host workshops in libraries, parks, and schools to teach people about the importance of fostering and animal enrichment,” Ariela says. “We also teach them how to make enrichment toys at home from common household items, and the toys are then collected and donated to shelters.”
Ariela’s work has been recognized nationally by Best Friends Animal Society and PETA, and as of this writing, she is one of 15 finalists to potentially win a $10,000 scholarship. Time will tell what she’ll do with the funds if she wins, but it’s probably safe to say it’ll go towards helping even more animals!
Animal Wellness is North America’s top natural health and lifestyle magazine for dogs and cats, with a readership of over one million every year. AW features articles by some of the most renowned experts in the pet industry, with topics ranging from diet and health related issues, to articles on training, fitness and emotional well being.