A visual arts class from Coquihalla Middle School distributed between 200 and 250 origami animals throughout the city on Saturday in hopes of building awareness about animal cruelty.

The class wanted to remind people about the importance of only owning pets if they intend to keep them for the duration of the animal’s life.

“The rationale for this project is the frequency with which Merritt animals are discarded like garbage,” said Fame Mackney, a visual arts teacher with CMS. “The students and I wanted to call attention to this pervasive problem, and hope that the origami will remind people that pets are a responsibility and not a toy, nor fashion accessory, as Paris Hilton would have us believe.”

Mackney said she also intends to build a discussion about whether Merritt needs an animal shelter.

Two teachers and five members of the class placed the art in locations such as schools, park benches and in banks.

The origami were made to resemble whales, frogs, cranes and swans. There were even a few siamese twin turtles.

The largest piece of art measures approximately 3-by-3 feet.

“We hope when people find the origami around town that they give it to an appreciative child in lieu of a real pet that [the child] might not be developmentally ready for,” Mackney explained, noting the students worked on the project for approximately three weeks. “This could even be a fun game for families to go out and search for these origami animals.”

One of the five students who were helping place the origami, Madeleine Barnes, said the art project has helped her appreciate how serious the problem is in Merritt.

“I knew what was going on with the animals,” she said. “Now I know that it’s getting worse and worse.”

The children said they have heard stories from other students in their classrooms about abandoned animals, such as a dog that was found still alive in ice. Another student said she found a horse that was left abandoned in a field, but her family was unable to save its life.

The students and teachers also had a pizza party and sleepover Friday night at the school to celebrate the near completion of the guerilla project.

Mackney gives credit to community non-profit group Angel’s Animal Rescue, for the work they do in Merritt.

The students have several points they intend to communicate through the origami project, including:

° Parents shouldn’t buy a pet for their child that they can’t care for, or a pet that the parent won’t care for if the child is unable.

° Pet owners should also know the care needed for their particular pet before they purchase the animal.