Madison Hewlett didn't even have an interest in pageants when her mother, Hollie Mitchell, talked her into participating. The Carter County Fair had already come and gone, and it was the weekend of the Greenup County Fair – Hewlett's mother is originally from Worthington – when the Grayson teen reluctantly agreed to enter the pageant there.
“It was her first pageant since she was probably four,” Mitchell said of her daughter.
Not only did Hewlett win the title of Teen Miss Greenup County, she went on to win the Teen Miss Kentucky title in the Miss US pageantry series. Now she's using that platform to advocate for a cause that's near to her heart, the adoption of shelter animals.
She started with a visit to the Carter County Animal Shelter, and had to resist the temptation to bring home another dog, but since has been advocating over social media for folks to support the shelter with food and other donations.
“They need things like can dog food, dry dog food, puppy food, leashes, rubber dog toys – for sanitary purposes, and Kuranda beds.”
She noted that those who wished to donate a bed can visit shelterbeds.org and entering the Carter County Shelter into the recipient field.
The shelter also needs cleaning and sanitizing supplies, to help keep the shelter clean and prevent the spread of disease and illness among animals.
“The shelter was a very clean and sanitary place, and the dogs were well taken care of,” she said of her visit, but the shelter can't keep them forever.
Ultimately, she wants more of those abandoned pets to find their forever homes, and to curb the flow of pets into shelters by discouraging folks from purchasing pets they might not be ready for.
The home-schooled teen has seen first hand the terrible living conditions of popular breeds raised in puppy mills during trips with her parents. Sadder still, she said, are those pets that are purchased from those terrible conditions only to then be abandoned when the breed ends up being more work than a family intends, or otherwise an unsuitable fit for their lifestyle.
Shelter animals on the other hand, she explained, not only need homes but also already have a developed personality that the shelter can highlight to help match them with an appropriate family. The Carter County Shelter, she said, is doing a good job of encouraging those kinds of matches.
“They are a no-kill shelter, that works with other no-kill organizations,” she said, noting that this was an important factor for her as well in supporting the shelter. “(They also) encourage you to put lots of thought into becoming a 'furever' home... and encourage you to spay and neuter your pet.”
Hewlett said she will continue to advocate for pet adoption in her role as Teen Miss KY and beyond. Someday, she said, she would like to work with animals, possibly as a veterinarian or vet tech.
That doesn't surprise her mother, who said that she's almost like a fairy tale princess when it comes to how animals react to her.
“They're just drawn to her,” Mitchell said, and the feeling is obviously mutual.
The shelter, Hewlett said, has donations accounts set up with both Bluegrass Animal Clinic and All Creatures Veterinary Care, for those who wish to donate cash for the shelter's needs.
“Just contact one of those two vets and tell them who it's for,” she said.
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