This commitment to one-on-one interaction with each pup has contributed to Unleashed's phenomenal success rate: less than 1 percent of the puppies the organization places ever have to be re-homed. Impressively, Unleashed has rescued more than 400 puppies from the urgent lists of high-kill shelters around the country since its inception in 2010.
The girls also organize fundraisers like on Valentine's Day, where passersby can donate $15 to spend half an hour snuggling a puppy with their sweetheart. Similarly, the nonprofit organizes educational events, the culmination of which is "Unleashed Leads Day," a festival-like event at the end of the program, which takes place at a local doggy daycare center. During this day, the girls set up booths to educate the community on animal rights issues they've studied over the course of the semester.
But Unleashed's initiative is about more than puppy rescue. As part of her research, Radin uncovered an unsettling link between animal abuse and violence against women and children. "If you look at the research about animal abuse, you can see that there tend to be more male perpetrators and that usually there is this correlation with abuse against children and women."
Unleashed addresses this head on by putting girls in touch with their ability to affect social change at the exact moment in their development when they need it the most. The discussion around animal rights is the invitation the girls need to talk about feminism and women's rights. Despite the upswing in mainstream feminism's popularity - artists like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Lena Dunham proudly declaring themselves feminists, for example, or Emma Watson presenting her #HeForShe campaign at the United Nations - "people still hate feminists," Radin says. "Ours is still very much an 'I'm not a feminist, but ...' nation." Putting the focus on saving puppies offers the girls a safer means of talking about injustice in society. "They learn that when you get down to the core root of things, it's all connected to us humans, and sometimes it's connected to issues humans are facing, such as bigotry, bias, stereotypes or violence," Radin says.