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The Duckling Project

Tim with DucklingsThe following is a heart warming story which demonstrates how any one, in this case a young man, with determination and courage can make a difference in the lives of other people and other beings by standing up for what he/she believes.

On the first day of sixth grade, my teacher told us all the major units we would be doing during the year. One of them, he said was the duck hatching unit we would be doing at the end of the year. I had a feeling that there was something fishy about the idea of the unit. As a concerned animal lover, I asked where the ducks would go after we completed the unit. My teacher, who obviously doesn’t love animals, casually said something along the lines of “They’ll go back to the duck farm and end up in the Chinese restaurant”. I am the kind of animal lover who will physically do things for animals rather than just donate money and say empty words. I was determined to save them.

The story is that a classmate’s mother and a teacher in the elementary school (k-2nd grade) hatched them together. There would be forty ducklings, and my class would be the only class in the grade school (3rd-6th grade) to get any. The rest would live in the elementary school. If the ducks were not slaughtered, they would live in almost definitely cruel conditions for breeding. Also, the conditions in which the ducks lived at my school were bad. They lived in small clear plastic totes with the only water being a tiny cup of drinking water.

I started making plans to kidnap the ducks one day after school, but when my teacher’s assistant told me that she would be willing to let me take the ducks if I found a place for them to go, I sprang at the opportunity. The ducks we raised are Pekings. They do not make good pets, and yet cannot survive in the wild, because even as adults, they can’t fly. They are livestock animals, meat ducks.

I started calling around. I called Volunteers for Wildlife, who stated that the ducks in question were livestock, not wildlife, and so they couldn’t help them. The Star Foundation told me that they get too many of this kind of call and refused to help me. The meanest was Suffolk County Farm, who said that it is a fact of life that the ducks had to be killed. I was getting frantic when I called Karen Davis at United Poultry Concerns.

She was the first helpful person I called. With Dr. Davis’ help, I was eventually led to Sara Whalen who owns Pets Alive, a sanctuary in Middletown, N.Y. She sent out an e-mail alert which signifies an animal emergency. And boy was this an emergency! Although I started calling the day we got the ducks, suddenly I had only 24 hours to find them a home or they would go back to the farm.

Angel’s Gate responded to the alert within minutes. I researched them and told Dr. Davis. She did more research and we agreed that this was our place! Luckily for me, Angel’s Gate is located in Fort Salonga, Long Island, just 20-30 minutes away from my home. They mostly take care of special needs animals, and I can honestly say that they are the most loving and miraculous place I've ever visited. The owners, Susan Marino and Victor LaBruna share their home with over 200 special needs animals. They are two of the most unselfish people I know. It becomes obvious as soon as you walk in to Angel's Gate that all the animals are well loved!

The ducks are living happily at Angel’s Gate. In recognition, I have received The Compassionate Kid Award form People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and Doris Day Animal Foundation’s Kindred Spirit Award. I am volunteering at Angel’s Gate this summer. On a final note, I would like to thank a few wonderful people and organizations. First of all, Karen Davis at United Poultry concerns who was behind everything. Special thanks go next to Angel’s Gate for taking the ducks. I would also like to thank Sara Whalen of Pets Alive for sending out the alert that found the ducks a home. Also, my thanks go to Karen Benzel, Vernon Weir, PETA, Animal General, Farm Sanctuary, my dad Eric, and my friend Megan Mellino. I am proud and happy with the outcome of what I have named “The Duckling Project.”

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