Student's film a lifesaver

A talented young art student is using the power of film to rescue shelter dogs.

Ireland Smith, a fifth-grader at Top of the World Elementary, recently won second place for her film, "Together We Can: Help Homeless Animals," in the third-to-fifth-grade film division of the PTA Reflections program.

The art education enhancement program provides opportunities for students to discover and experience a variety of different art forms including literature, photography and visual arts, musical composition, dance choreography and film production, while receiving positive recognition for their efforts.

This year's theme, "Together We Can," drew 150 young movers and shakers from Laguna Beach schools, including Smith, who seized the opportunity to raise awareness about her greatest passion — saving animals.

"It makes me sad to see animals who are abandoned in shelters and don't have homes," she said. "I just want to help all of them."

Although only first-place videos advance in the competition where they are seen by a larger panel of judges, Smith decided to post her heart-rending documentary, which captures the sad faces of the four-legged residents at the Orange County Animal Shelter, on Facebook and YouTube to attract more attention to her cause.

The film has already received hundreds of comments and led to a handful of adoptions from the shelter since it was posted in November, she said, which makes her "really happy."

Also a volunteer for a pet rescue organization called Stella's Hope based in Huntington Beach, where she plays with the dogs and takes them for walks, Smith said she has cared about rescuing pets since her family rescued its own dogs from a high-kill shelter years ago.

A recent trip to New Mexico in September, where she grew fascinated with the dogs roaming free on the Navajo reservation, deepened her concern and passion for rescuing animals, she said.

Since then, her family has fostered about six dogs at a time, and recently rescued a momma Chihuahua and her three puppies that the shelter planned to euthanize.

Smith's love for animals isn't limited to dogs. She is also the adoptive mother of three guinea pigs and foster parent to two.

"When I grow up, I hope to start my own rescue group for dogs and guinea pigs," she said.

To see the film, visit

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