Eleven-year-old Evan Bisnauth leads a busy life, but he doesn’t let his many interests—or even a pandemic—deter him from his primary passion: helping socialize shelter dogs by reading to them regularly. And that’s why he was named the ASPCA’s Kid of the Year 2021.
The young Bronx resident has been volunteering at the city's Animal Care & Control centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn since 2019. Living in a shelter can be very stressful and scary for animals, despite the great care they get from staff. Evan reads to the dogs to help alleviate their anxiety. A less anxious dog can lead to less barking and aggression, and ultimately increase their chances of being adopted into a loving and fur-ever home.
“When I'm at the shelter, I like to sit down with a dog and read to them so I can get them socialized,” Evan says. “They're very nervous, and they've been through a lot. I think the calming and the flow of reading helps them take their mind off their anxiety.”
Evan will read to all dogs, but focuses more on senior and larger breeds, such as pit bull mixes and huskies, who have a harder time getting adopted. He reads books about dogs who've been adopted to give the pups hope that they, too, will become part of a loving family one day. He reads to them until they fall asleep.
ASPCA's Kid of the Year 2021
It's because of this volunteer work that Evan was recently honored as the ASPCA's Kid of the Year, an award given to a child who has made a unique and impactful commitment to animal welfare.
“Evan is a great example of what can be accomplished for animals in need when you apply commitment and compassion to an opportunity,” says Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO. “Evan made the most of his opportunity with Animal Care Centers of NYC, and we hope he inspires people of all ages to support vulnerable animals and the organizations dedicated to their protection and welfare.”
Following a nationwide public call for nominations, the ASPCA reviewed hundreds of entries for Kid of the Year, as well as the organization's other awards: Cat Advocate of the Year, Equine Welfare Award, Public Service Award, Henry Bergh Award, Corporate Compassion Award, and Dog of the Year, which this year was given to a Rottweiler named Loki for supporting health care heroes at the University of Maryland Medical Center during the pandemic.
How Evan Helped Dogs in Shelters During the Pandemic
Even during the pandemic Evan didn't stop helping animals. He put his puppy love to use in a different way—a digital way.
“During 2020 when the whole world was on lockdown, I couldn't go into the shelter. No one really could. So, I started animating,” Evan says. “I would make doggie interviews in cartoons and include their bios to raise awareness to give them the exposure they need to get adopted.”
Evan continues to make the animations, and also posts about the ACC's adoptable dogs on his Instagram to give the animals some additional exposure and showcase their cuteness and cool canine characteristics.
Evan's work has helped lead to many success stories of dogs getting adopted. Also, he doesn't forget about the shelters' other furry friends. He reads to cats, guinea pigs, and rabbits (with those big ears, they're great listeners!) He even has two rescue dogs at home—Apollo and Athena. They are “very cute,” according to Evan.
So, what does the future hold for this junior animal whisperer? Dogs will undoubtedly always be a part of his life, he says, but career-wise, he might take a different path that's out of this world. “My main focus isn't dogs, but I love working with them. One day I would like to own my own rescue so I could save all the dogs in need. But, I'd also like to work at NASA as an aerospace engineer,” he says.