At just 11 years old, Austin Testa has done more for animals in need than most people will in a lifetime.
“It makes me feel happy and great, he said. “Just believe in yourself and anything can happen.”
The Palm Harbor boy runs his own animal charity called Every Bark Counts. To date, he’s raised more than $35,000 dollars to benefit local shelters and rescue groups.
Last month, he received the gofundme.com Kid Hero award.
“I get a little teary eyed,” said Michelle Testa, Austin’s mom. She says her son’s flair for philanthropy started on a cold day five years ago, when Austin insisted on buying fleece blankets to donate to the Humane Society.
That unleashed his passion for helping animals, and he started selling popcorn and cotton candy at events to fundraise.
“I said to him, ‘why is Every Bark Counts important for you?'” Michelle recalls. “He said ‘because animals can’t speak for themselves.'”
“I get really mad, because people just abuse these dogs for no reason,” Austin said. “When they just want to be loved.”
Dogs like Hubble, a rescue recently dumped at a Brooksville shelter. At first, they feared they’d have to put him down, until Austin offered to pay thousands of dollars to save Hubble’s leg…and life.
Austin says he wants to run his own animal shelter one day. At this rate, that day may come sooner than later.
“I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if that’s, like, right around the corner,” Michelle Testa said.