FAIRFIELD - April is National Heartworm Awareness Month.

Veterinarians say the goal is to get people thinking about the simple steps needed to protect pets from heartworm disease, which can be deadly.

Annie Blumenfeld, 17, has taken on the mission by starting her own nonprofit organization.

She started “Wags 4 Hope” three years ago to spread awareness about heartworm disease and to help shelter animals get preventative treatment.

“I decided I would fund the animals through my artwork,” she said.

Annie does personalized paintings and has completed about 250 so far. The American Heartworm Association and Cesar's Way magazine honored her in 2013, and Dog Fancy magazine shared Annie’s story last year.

She has worked with state officials to change this year's dog license application to include a reminder about heartworm prevention.

The governor recognized Annie and Wags 4 Hope this month.