IDA's December 2007 Guardian of the Month
- Elaine Hendrix
Actress, activist, and IDA celebrity spokesperson is a superstar for animals
IDA's Guardian of the Month for December 2007 is the multi-talented Elaine Hendrix — film and television actress, singer/songwriter, author, dancer, movie producer, and animal rights activist. If you've seen films like Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion, The Parent Trap, Superstar, or What the Bleep Do We Know?, then you know that Elaine is an accomplished actress with real screen presence. Her illustrious television credits include two years recurring on the critically-acclaimed CBS series Joan of Arcadia and guest-star roles on such hit shows as CSI, ER, Ghost Whisperer, and many others. She also enjoys belting out her own blend of "dance-infused Southern Rock" that incorporates influences as diverse as Patty Griffin and Madonna. But this movie star and musician is at least as passionate about helping animals.
Though she now spends most of her time in Hollywood, Elaine's most recent public performance was at a Fur Free Friday event she organized in her home state of Tennessee. Donning a pair of pink rabbit ears and holding a sign that read "Honk if you love animals" while hopping like a bunny, she had no trouble getting smiles from drivers cruising past the West Town Mall in Knoxville. "So many people love animals," she says, "If they knew that millions of rabbits spend their entire lives in crowded, filthy cages before being skinned to make fur trim for jackets, they wouldn't buy clothing made from fur. Instead, they would adopt rabbits from their local shelters."
A lifelong animal lover, Elaine had rabbit companions as a young girl... as well as dogs, cats, hamsters, turtles, fish, and birds. Growing up around members of other species, she appreciates that each one has a unique personality and intrinsic value as an individual. She is currently the proud guardian of two dogs (Rossmore and Tiloc) and two cats (Goodie Cornbread and Kimbo) who she says "are like my children, except that they will never grow up, and always be dependent on me. Being a guardian is a serious commitment, but definitely worth it. They enrich my life with joy, comfort, and endless fascination, and I believe my love and care enriches their lives."
Using her celebrity and talent to help animals is something that Elaine does both on and off stage. "I have rescued animals, petitioned, picketed, and fundraised to help them, and filmed and photographed for them," she says. "Just recently, I was discussing wardrobe for an event I'm hosting and I said I would prefer to pick my own clothes because I won't wear clothes made by designers who use fur. And the response was, 'Cool.' A couple of weeks ago I took a petition banning gestation crates and battery cages in California to an audition, and several other actresses happily signed it. I do what I can when I can, but no matter what, I take some online action every single day."
As a new celebrity spokesperson for IDA, Elaine has big plans on the horizon to help animals even more with a new anti-fur campaign in 2008. She will be hosting a legendary bingo event for IDA on January 16th in West Hollywood with prizes and auction items. "I am definitely a 'get involved' type of person," she says. "If I can help show people what is being done to animals and that there are all kinds of ways that they can help, then I can help stop the violence and abuse. I believe the good always outweighs the bad and love truly does conquer all, but we live in times of turmoil. People who care about animals can make the world and their lives better each and every day by embodying compassion for every being -- human and non-human."
2008 is shaping up to be one of Elaine's strongest years yet. Watch for her in Eye of the Beholder, Hallmark's latest installment in Lea Thompson's Jane Doe movie series. Airing later in the year on ABC Family Channel is funny friend Margaret Cho's Two Sisters, for which Cho wrote a role specifically for Elaine. In addition to her Hollywood activities, Elaine's first contribution as a published author can be found in the newly released book Voices of Breast Cancer, which benefits The Healing Project. To learn more about Elaine Hendrix, visit her website, www.elainehendrix.com.
IDA's November 2007 Guardian of the Month
- Christine Dorchak
Greyhounds' best friend has the dog racing industry on the run
Christine Dorchak's life completely changed the day she was hit by a speeding train and thrown under the wheels. EMTs responding to the accident put her body into their ambulance thinking she was dead, but incredibly, Dorchak's vital signs returned on the ride to the hospital. This unusual near-death experience transformed the 26-year-old Dorchak into the canine crusader supreme that she is today, for it was a dog she says who saved her life.
Dorchak had been walking her dog Kelsey, a Black Russian Terrier, along the tracks that day in 1992. Dorchak had already saved Kelsey's life by adopting her from a shelter in Lowell, Mass. on the very day she was scheduled to be put down, and now the dog returned the favor. Had Kelsey not pulled her guardian slightly off course, the train would have struck Dorchak head on, leaving no chance of survival.
When Dorchak awoke from a coma in the intensive care ward several weeks later, she felt closer than ever before to her special dog, and the first words she said upon regaining consciousness were "Where's Kelsey?" despite having complete memory loss from severe head injuries. "Kelsey became my Best Friend in the fullest sense," says Dorchak. "It was my desire to see her again that gave me the strength and will to overcome my injuries and walk again, throughout the many months of hospitalization that were to follow, and it was because of her that I realized my life's calling: To help other animals."
The experience eventually led Dorchak, in 2001, to found GREY2K USA, a non-profit that stands today as the country's premiere greyhound advocacy organization. Like many other dog lovers, Dorchak (who is also a longtime vegan) has a soft spot for greyhounds because they are among the most naturally gentle and affectionate dog breeds. Yet every year, more than 30,000 greyhound puppies are bred for commercial dog racing. Living at the track, these dogs spend most of their lives — between eighteen and twenty-two hours a day — in cages.
Greyhounds are forced to race in all weather extremes, ranging from sweltering heat to freezing cold, making them especially vulnerable to tissue injuries and bone fractures, as well as spinal injuries, seizures, and death from cardiac arrest. Dogs who can no longer win races (because of injury, illness, or advancing age) are "retired," which for many amounts to being summarily killed. Greyhound rescue and adoption groups are able to spare some dogs from that fate by placing former racers in caring homes, but they do not have nearly enough resources to save all the greyhounds in need.
Dorchak asserts that "Dog racing is cruel and inhumane, and should be outlawed," and is doing everything in her power to achieve this goal. Her latest and most ambitious effort to date is to place a proposition on the November 2008 ballot in Massachusetts called the Greyhound Protection Act that seeks to ban commercial dog racing in the state by 2010. To accomplish this, GREY2K USA and the Committee to Protect Dogs are leading an effort to gather the requisite number of petition signatures (66,593) by November 21st.
One of Dorchak's most effective volunteers is Zoe, her beloved canine companion and spokesdog for the campaign. Zoe, a greyhound and former racer, acts as a sort of poster child for the Greyhound Protection Act. As Dorchak hits the streets with clipboard and petition in hand, Zoe sits right at her side wearing a smart red, white, and blue jacket with the catchy slogan "Vote for the Dogs" printed on the side.
In addition to Zoe, Dorchak is the guardian of four rescued cats: Doodlebug, Samo, Bello, and Buttercup. She believes that "Guardian language reflects the important role that dogs and all non-human animals play in our lives. Greyhound dogs are treated like so many cards in a deck, routinely shuffled from one race track to another, evaluated for their winning potential and discarded when no longer profitable. This is a result of the 'owner' mindset, and must stop."
Greyhound racing is already illegal in 34 states, and if Dorchak and her colleagues are successful, Massachusetts could become the 35th by next year. IDA salutes Christine Dorchak's tireless efforts to end the suffering of dogs being exploited by the greyhound racing industry, and we are honored to name her our Guardian of the Month for November 2007.
What You Can Do:
- Massachusetts residents: Get involved in the effort to pass the Greyhound Protection Act to ban dog racing in your home state by volunteering to collect petition signatures.
- Learn about adopting a former racing greyhound from a local rescue organization in your area.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for October
- Mary Lee Withers
Owner of P.C.'s Pantry for Dogs and Cats in Boulder puts animals first
Mary Lee Withers works seven days a week. Not because she has to, but because she loves her job. The owner and proprietor of P.C.'s Pantry for Cats and Dogs opened the store in 1999, and, since then, has been changing the way animals are treated in Boulder, Colo.
Take P.C.'s for instance — it's certainly not your average "pet store." Where else is a full-time baker on staff, making "barkday" cakes, cookies, and two-dozen flavors of dog biscuits? And where else can you get doggy pierogies made fresh and on display in a refrigerated deli case? And all made without refined sugars or salt and the same quality of ingredients used for people food?
Customers and friends know that Mary Lee is completely dedicated to the health of dogs and cats, often going beyond the call of duty of your typical neighborhood shopkeeper. While she often recommends specific foods or supplements for individual dogs and cats, serving up nutritious food is just the beginning. When an animal needs surgery that a guardian cannot afford, Mary Lee makes it her mission to find a way to pay. She holds raffles at the store to raise money for needy dogs and cats, giving $100 gift certificates to P.C.'s as prizes. She has also paid for surgeries — from spaying and neutering to setting broken bones — out of her own pocket.
Sometimes people abandon dogs at P.C.'s, tethering them to posts in the parking lot at night with anonymous notes of explanation and apology stuck to their collars. Mary Lee takes every one of these animals in and finds homes for them. Actually, she's adopted nine dogs and cats herself.
Through P.C.'s, Mary Lee has close connections with the feral cat community, and offers their caretakers discounts on food for their colonies. She has also adopted several ferals. The oldest of her seven cats is 22, rescued from homelessness on the streets of Denver. Lyle required several expensive surgeries, including ultrasounds, but Mary Lee didn't balk at the cost. "I consider the cost of Lyle's care tiny compared to not having him in my life," says Mary Lee, "because he is so priceless to me."
The youngest member of Mary Lee's furry family is two-year-old Annie, a rescued feral who lost her leg at only two months of age. Annie can often be found hanging around the store, and is so outgoing it's hard to imagine that not all that long ago she was homeless on the street. "Annie is sort of famous because P.C.'s manager, my friend Colleen Smith, taught her to high-five," notes Mary Lee. "If you can imagine a three-legged cat reaching up to high-five someone's palm, that's Annie, the Ninth Wonder of Boulder."
Of course, pretty much everyone in Boulder knows that the city's Eighth Wonder is Ralphie, the celebrated 150-pound St. Bernard mix who's often holding court at the store happily greeting admirers. No one really knows where Ralphie got so much charisma, but people actually come to P.C.'s just to meet him. Like many of Mary Lee's dogs and cats, Ralphie has special needs.
A year ago, Ralphie was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which could have meant the loss of his leg. Determined to have the limb spared, Mary Lee paid to have a special customized brace made for so his leg wouldn't have to be amputated. "I would no more think of letting him succumb to a disease than if he were my own child," she says. "I would do for Ralphie anything that any parent would do for their child."
Mary Lee is proud of the city she calls home and says it's a great place to raise cats and dogs. "I think we live in a Utopia in Boulder," she says. "It's a unique place because we have an ideal situation for animals. When it comes to animal companions, most people here really seem to get it." Mary Lee credits some of this awareness to IDA's Rita Anderson, who led the successful campaign to make Boulder the world's first Guardian City in 2000.
"Around here, guardian language is everyday speech," Mary Lee says. "Most people in Boulder do say 'guardian' instead of 'owner,' and they usually refer to their 'cats and dogs' rather than their pets. My skin almost crawls when people say I'm my dog or cat's owner: it's just not right."
Mary Lee uses these interactions to educate customers by explaining what being a guardian is really about. "Because Boulder is a guardian city, we can use guardian language more naturally as an educational tool about our relationship with animal companions," says Mary Lee. "We can talk about it directly because most people have already heard at least something about it. It gives me an opening to explain what dogs and cats need from us, their guardians."
Mary Lee believes in the power of using humane language to win proper respect for animal companions. "People who 'own' their 'pet,' as though these unique individuals are replaceable possessions, won't do what's necessary to ensure that animal's quality of life for his or her entire life," she says. "Being a guardian is being there for your dog or cat when he or she needs you, not only in emergencies but each and every day."
Mary Lee is a guardian who not only makes a real difference for the cats and dogs in her life and other people's lives: she also provides crucial support for Boulder's guardians. Between helping animals and helping people, she works long, hard hours, but knows that it's all worthwhile. "When I come home tired after a long day at the store, my husband reminds me why we do everything we do," Mary Lee says. "It's all for the good of the animals. Of course, he's absolutely right."
IDA is proud to honor Mary Lee Withers as our Guardian of the Month for October 2007. If you live in Boulder or are there on a visit, be sure to pop into P.C.'s to pick up some treats for your canine and feline friends, and say hi to Mary Lee and the rest of the gang.
IDA's September Guardian of the Month
Karate black belt and Ultimate Fighter brings compassion into the ring
Ricardo Moreira is a rarity in the world of Ultimate Fighting—an extreme sport that pits martial artists of all fighting styles against each other, often inside a cage, where they punch, kick, and wrestle one another. In fact, the soft-spoken 26-year-old seems to be one of only two vegans on the international cage fighting circuit. "There are a lot of pescetarians who still eat fish, and there are fighters who sometimes stop eating meat and dairy to lose weight before a competition," says Moreira. "But besides me and King of the Cage World Champion Mac Danzig, I don't know of anyone else competing in mixed martial arts who doesn't eat any animal products at all, ever."
According to Moreira, "the most important fight is not in the ring, but out in the world where animals need our help." That's why he has been fighting for animals since he was a child growing up in San Francisco's Mission District, a tough neighborhood where he learned out of necessity to defend himself and others who couldn't defend themselves. For instance, young Ricardo got into many a scuffle in the schoolyard and on the street with boys who derived pleasure from kicking pigeons or stomping ants. Moreira joined the fight for animal liberation more formally in his teens, when he started attending IDA protests, and today talks with his fellow fighters about how animals suffer. "It takes both inner and outer strength to help animals," says Moreira. "I work on developing physical strength and skill in martial arts to show that we vegans can be just as strong in our bodies as we are in our convictions."
Once a vegetarian, Moreira was inspired to go vegan by the example of two vegan bodybuilders—Kenneth G. Williams, spokesperson for IDA's Vegan Campaign, and Robert Cheeke. Moreira figured if they could be bodybuilders without eating any animal products, then he could be a vegan professional cage fighter. "Like Kenneth and Robert, I want to set a positive example by being someone who is healthy and confident, hopefully inspiring athletes to go vegan and vegans to stay physically fit."
Moreira exercises a lot of discipline in order to compete in his chosen sport. He has a black belt in karate, a contact sport in which he won a state title, and studies other martial arts, such as aikido and jiu jitsu. He also adheres to an ultra-healthy straight edge lifestyle, consuming no alcohol, tobacco, or drugs. In fact, he doesn't even use curse words. "The only things I'm addicted to are training, competing, and animal rights," he says. He also gives private karate and kickboxing lessons at the Northern Tiger Kenpo in San Francisco, and hopes to open his own martial arts studio in the city someday to teach his own style of street-level self-defense. Excelling at the increasingly popular sport of Ultimate Fighting will help Moreira establish a name for himself as someone who people seek out for training.
"This sport is not about violence or beating your opponent," he says of his fighting and teaching philosophy, "it's about being present and doing your best in the same way a batter wants to hit a home run or a basketball player wants to execute an amazing slam dunk. Feats of skill require physical and mental focus rather than anger, which ultimately weakens concentration and your ability to win." Underneath Moreira's calm yet intense demeanor, one can detect a deep sense of outrage regarding animal abuse—whether it takes place in slaughterhouses, fur farms, research labs, or so-called "sports" like rodeo, hunting, and dogfighting.
"I choose to get in the cage, but animals don't have a choice," Moreira says, pointing out that an activity is not a "sport" if some competitors are being forced to participate—especially when they are at such great a disadvantage that they could die. "At the core, sports is about becoming your best by competing with opponents who are at least evenly-matched to your skill level. Shooting a deer at long range with a high-powered rifle is about as fair a fight as me stepping in the cage with a 10-year-old kid who's just had his first karate lesson."
Moreira continues, "Chasing and terrorizing animals is not a sport, it's a power trip. A lot of guys who try to prove they're tough by exercising power over defenseless animals would never step foot in the cage where they might feel some of the pain that they are inflicting on others. My nose was broken in my last fight, and because I feel like that pain gave me some insight into what animals suffer, I have more compassion for them—especially since what's being done to them is thousands of times worse."
Moreira's lifelong emotional understanding of animals continues with his dog, Janet, an eight-year-old Rottweiler-Bulldog mix who he has raised since she was a puppy and the smallest of the litter. "Dogs are pack animals, and I really feel like Jan and I are part of the same pack, which is basically the same thing as a family," says Moreira. "She's like my daughter, and I treat her as such." He also has a 17-year-old goldfish named Nemo who is the last of his tank mates but still going strong in his golden years, even with only one fin left.
"I've always felt like the underdog, so that would explain why I identify with animals so strongly," says Moreira. "I fight to show that real strength comes from caring about and protecting those who need help, not abusing them. That is what a true guardian does."
What You Can Do
- Learn more about IDA's Guardian of the Month, Ricardo Moreira, by visiting his MySpace page.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for August
Compassionate advocate is founder of Iran's first animal shelter
Iran got its first animal shelter only four years ago, and it was IDA's Guardian of the Month for August, Fatemeh Motamedi, who brought it into being. With land donated by her husband and help from her family and other generous donors, she founded the Center for Animal Lovers in the village of Koushkezar, about 50 miles outside of Tehran. Since 2003, she and her fellow caretakers have saved hundreds of homeless dogs.
Motamedi saw the need to create a shelter based on her experiences taking strays off the streets, having them spayed or neutered, and then returning them to their homeless existence. Eventually, she decided she needed to protect these animals from the unforgiving mean streets, where many struggled to survive starvation, disease, and abuse. The Center for Animal Lovers was her solution: it provides a temporary place for dogs to live and be cared for until they can be adopted into loving homes.
At the shelter, dogs are able to socialize and play together in a large common area, and each animal also has his or her own doghouse. Motamedi and her colleagues screen potential guardians before adopting dogs out to make sure they will provide a safe home, proper care, and a doghouse for shelter. Often, this is the best that can be expected, because in Iran, the concept of keeping dogs as companions is still somewhat foreign.
Most Iranians who have dogs put them to work as guards or sheep herders, and don't let them live inside the house with the rest of the family. This doesn't mean that people don't love their dogs: it's just that having an "indoor dog" is not yet culturally common in Iran. Motamedi hopes to deepen people's appreciation for dogs so that more are allowed to live inside as real members of their adopted families. The Center for Animal Lovers is pioneering acceptance of this view through their publications and community outreach efforts, which focus on the benefits of treating canines as companions.
IDA is proud to honor Fatemeh Motamedi as our August 2007 Guardian of the Month for her groundbreaking efforts to win respect for animals in Iran. We hope that she and the Center for Animal Lovers will find good homes for many more dogs, and inspire others to open shelters in Iran.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for July—Sheriff Joe Arpaio
"America's Toughest Sheriff" has a heart for needy animals
IDA's Guardian of the Month for July 2007, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is that rare breed of lawman who makes a special effort to serve and protect animals as well as people.
As Sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Arpaio has been called "America's Toughest Sheriff." Heading up the third largest Sheriff's Office in the U.S. (which includes a jail system with over 10,000 inmates) is no easy task, but Arpaio has been meeting the challenge since 1993, having been re-elected to an unprecedented four terms. His popularity rests on his approach to rehabilitation and programs for preventing recidivism, as well as the unique concern he shows for animals.
In 2000, Sheriff Arpaio even converted one large jail into a shelter where abused and abandoned animals can find sanctuary. He created the no-kill MASH unit, located at First Avenue and Madison Street in Phoenix, after inmates sabotaged the plumbing in their cells. Sheriff Arpaio moved the convicts out of the building and into the nation's largest "Tent City," where 2000 people now live. He then moved dogs, cats, goats, chickens, rabbits, and other animals inside.
With the capacity to hold 300 animals, each dog has his or her own "room" (actually a redecorated jail cell) while cats live several to a cage. All of the animals are spayed or neutered and receive standard inoculations. Unlike the prisoners' Tent City nearby, the shelter is air conditioned to protect animals from the blistering Southwest heat. Female inmates provide care for the animals as part of an employment skills training program that may provide them with animal care jobs upon release.
Many animals in the MASH unit are seized as "evidence" in arrests, or because they were abused or neglected by their guardians. Depending on the court's ruling, which can take weeks or months, animals are either returned to their caretakers or adopted out to new homes. The shelter also boards animals whose guardians cannot take them to domestic violence shelters, and accepts animals from other Maricopa County animal shelters.
Sheriff Arpaio has spoken out for farmed animals as well, starring in a public service announcement in favor of the voter initiative to ban gestation crates for pregnant pigs in Arizona (which passed last year). He has also been outspoken about the link between animal cruelty and violence against human victims. "We know from history that every serial killer started out abusing animals," he told Best Friends News. "I had an executive of a big company murdered. He was taken out into the desert by three people for no reason and killed. After we caught them, we found out the shooter had killed his neighbor's cats."
This is the second time that IDA has honored Sheriff Arpaio. In 2005, we awarded him our prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award. Other recipients have included some of the most renowned advocates for animals and the environment in the world, such as environmentalist David Brower, labor leader Cesar Chavez, and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall. IDA proudly honors Sheriff Joe Arpaio again as our Guardian of the Month for July 2007.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for June
New SF/SPCA President helped Boulder, Colo. become first guardian city
Jan McHugh-Smith has been a strong supporter of IDA's Guardian Campaign since its earliest days. In fact, she and Rita Anderson (Director of the Committee for Research Accountability, a project of IDA) were the key figures in making Boulder, Colo. the world's first official guardian city in July 2000.
Back then, as Executive Director of the Humane Society of Boulder Valley (HSBV), McHugh-Smith submitted a proposal to the City Council recommending a municipal code modification that would allow people to be referred to as the "guardians" of their animal companions instead of their "owners." The Council overwhelming voted in favor of the measure, making history and blazing a trail for other compassionate communities to follow. Boulder essentially became a test case for the guardian concept, and in time proved that updating the language of city ordinances could advance people's thinking about how animals should be treated without causing any adverse legal repercussions.
"The word 'guardian' denotes a higher level of responsibility towards another being," McHugh-Smith said at the time. "Although it is a simple language change that does not alter the legal status of animals as property, we hope that the increased awareness of the 'guardian' language will elevate the status of animals in our community. We will use the word 'guardian' as another tool to fight animal abuse and exploitation."
The guardian model initially gained acceptance in Boulder in large measure because of the high degree of respect McHugh-Smith has earned within the animal welfare community for her work on behalf of homeless animals. During her 12 years as HSBV's CEO, McHugh-Smith reduced the euthanasia rate from 45% to 15% percent, and raised the rate of animals reunited with their guardians or adopted into a new family to 86%, with 100% placement of healthy animals. She also raised about $6 million to finance the design and construction of a new shelter facility, and oversaw the business development of a Veterinary Clinic, Thrift Store, and Behavior and Training Center. Under McHugh-Smith's leadership, HSBV ultimately increased the number of animals they are able help to more than 8,000 cats and dogs a year.
In April 2007, McHugh-Smith took on a new position as President of the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SF/SPCA), a nonprofit animal welfare organization founded in 1868. She is only the eighth president in the SF/SPCA's 139-year history, and also the first woman to be appointed to the job. SF/SPCA's shelter, Maddie's Pet Adoption Center, located in the city's Mission District, is considered one of the country's model animal shelters, and features clean, glass-walled "condos" for the canine and feline residents. The shelter's success is one of the reasons that San Francisco was recently named America's most humane city, and McHugh-Smith is understandably excited about starting this new chapter in her career and her life.
McHugh-Smith, who recently moved with her husband and three rescued dogs to scenic Marin County, Calif. (where IDA has its main office), is both a consummate guardian and a role model for those who want to make the world a better place for homeless animals. IDA is proud to honor this exceptional advocate by naming her our Guardian of the Month for June 2007.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for May
San Franciscan integrates animal rescue and recovery into daily life
A true guardian is someone who not only provides for his or her own animal companions' needs, but also makes a special effort to make sure that the animals they encounter in the course of their life are safe and properly cared for. Steve Dauley exemplifies this ideal, and so IDA is proud to honor him as our Guardian of the Month for May.
A longtime resident of San Francisco, Steve grew up in the Bay Area surrounded by a variety of animals—dogs, hamsters, mice, rats, lizards, scorpions, tarantulas, snakes, and even a Shetland pony. Steve's early fascination with other species in his formative years developed into a deep respect for animal companions that drives the rescue and recovery work he has enthusiastically taken up.
Steve seems to have a knack for finding lost animals—and then returning them to their guardians. Last year, while driving in the East Bay city of Richmond, he saw two dogs running along the road. He followed them into a park, and when he finally caught up to them, was able to coax them over, after several attempts, with some French fries he had in his truck. Steve got their guardian's phone number from the nametags on the dogs' collars and called her. "It turned out that they ran out of the dog park at Point Isabel, which is three exits away!" Steve exclaimed.
Steve found another lost dog on Christmas Eve day while visiting his old hometown of Santa Cruz. Walking his dog Roscoe on the beach, he came across a small dog wandering around alone. "This poor dog was obviously lost and frightened, just like a child who can't find her parents would be, so I took her to the emergency vet clinic," Steve recalled. "On Christmas, I got in touch with the guardian, a woman whose father, who had cared for the dog, had recently died. She had been in bed all night crying because she thought someone had stolen the dog for a Christmas present. Returning her dog was probably the best Christmas present I have ever given anyone."
Of course, there are many animals who don't have guardians, so Steve has taken some of these into his own home. In addition to Roscoe (the dog), he currently has two cats, two rats, and a fish — all rescues. He adopted his cats, Dude and Blackie, from the Martinez Animal Shelter the day before they were scheduled to be put down. "They turned out to be the best cats in the world," Steve beams. "All together, we're a very happy family. Everyone gets along really well, even though they're all different species."
Steve adopted three rats last year because their guardian was enlisted in the Army and had been called up for military service in Iraq. They would have been euthanized if not for Steve, so the soldier-guardian was grateful and relieved that his furry friends found a home for life. While two of the rats have since passed away, he still has two others—Hal and Dragonbait—who are thriving.
In addition to caring for his own brood, Steve is currently fostering another cat named Cornelius. "Several weeks ago, there was a fire in my friend's building," Steve explained. "I got there after it was put out, and found out from one of the tenants that he just left his cat inside without even telling the fire department about her." Steve convinced the firemen to rescue her, and after they brought her out, he immediately rushed her to the emergency veterinary clinic. One of her lungs was collapsed and the other was singed, so she spent two days in the hospital breathing from an oxygen tank, but she's now at Steve's house, taking antibiotics and recovering from her ordeal.
"There's something about lost, abandoned, and homeless animals that just grips at my heart," Steve said. "Humans made dogs, cats, and other domesticated species dependent on us by selectively breeding them for our own purposes. We've inherited this situation and we still benefit a lot from our relationships with animals, so we now have a responsibility to look after them, and we have to take that seriously. To the extent that we don't, we fail the animals and ourselves."
Steve took this statement to heart recently when he discovered that the tenants living next door to his brother in Oakland had four pit bulls: two puppies and two adults. The older dogs were literally being starved to death in the backyard. "I talked with the neighbors, but they still didn't feed the dogs, so I called Animal Care and Control, who came and removed them," said Steve. "One of the adults was so sick she had to be euthanized. I offered to foster the three remaining dogs if necessary until new homes can be found for them."
Steve makes his living restoring San Francisco's historic Victorian houses, and contracts with IDA for maintenance and repair work at our San Rafael headquarters. Steve has helped restore buildings from as early as the 1880s, but the most impressive place he's worked on was a 17-room mansion built in 1905 which was one of the first homes in the U.S. wired for electricity. There were crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceilings, and even a bowling alley in the basement where the wealthy residents sheltered refugees after the 1906 earthquake.
When Steve discovered five feral cats living at a construction site, he arranged to have them spayed and neutered, then returned to where they were found. Another one of his recently rescued animals had simply been left behind by the previous tenants of an apartment he was remodeling. "There was this huge fish tank in an empty room, and inside it was this one tiny little goldfish," Steve recalled. "I named her Speck because when I took a picture the tank, she was just this tiny little speck."
Steve said he'll eventually give Speck to his life partner, IDA's Office Manager Anita Carswell, for whom he has built several rat habitats using his carpentry skills. Steve is a vegetarian, and often goes with Anita to the anti-fur protests held every Sunday for the past several years outside of Neiman Marcus in downtown San Francisco. "Anita is my hero," Steve proclaimed. "I just wish I could have gone with her to New Orleans after Katrina to rescue animals."
IDA congratulates Steve on being our Guardian of the Month for May 2007. May his example inspire others to help animals in need.
IDA's April Guardian of the Month
San Francisco Bay Area resident works to improve animal companions' lives
Judy Jones never had any animals as a child, but her life was forever changed when she and her husband rescued a stray cat in 1965. "It was a new experience for both of us," she said, "and we wound up falling in love with that cat, and my affection for animals just progressed from there." The couple's animal family started to grow when they adopted two dogs from a local shelter. Judy soon translated her love of dogs into respect and admiration for all species. "I was a slow learner," she claimed, "but eventually came around to animal rights in 1990, when I started attending protests with IDA's San Jose chapter. I actually became a vegetarian and animal rights activist in the course of a single day."
Since then, Judy has been an active member of the Bay Area animal rights community with a focus on companion animal issues. In 1992, she and a friend started a group to get the City of San Jose to pass a breeding ordinance. While their proposal wasn't adopted, perhaps because it was too far ahead of its time, the pair was able to get a history-making free spay/neuter resolution passed with the support of then-Councilman Jim Beall.
These days, Judy is a member of IDA's Board of Directors, and sits on the Animal Advisory Commission for Santa Clara County and the Animal Advisory Committee for the City of San Jose. This helped her effort to make Santa Clara County a Guardian Community last year a successful one, and she is currently spearheading a Guardian Campaign in the City of San Jose, which is scheduled to hear the proposal on May 1st. "Guardian language is an essential part of advocating for animals on a large scale," said Judy, "because it gets people thinking about how important animals are in our lives, and sets the stage for other improvements in how the community cares for dogs, cats, and other animal companions."
She also volunteers at the quarterly spay/neuter clinics held by Peninsula Fix Our Ferals, during which an average of about 45 cats get sterilized. This helps to curb unwanted animal births and ease the strain on the South Bay's animal shelters. "I have also fostered two litters of feral kittens," said Judy, "which was a new adventure for me that I loved doing."
Judy has combined her love of animals with her passion for traveling. Last March, she ventured to India, which she described as "…a real eye opener. I was astonished to see cows, pigs, and many, many dogs at every turn, just wandering the streets with people. They have a real respect for animals in India: I never saw an animal being mistreated while I was there. I am very glad that we have a partnership with IDA India, which is making great strides in getting dogs the medical care they need and doing a lot of spay/neuter work to curb overpopulation."
Five years before that excursion, Judy made several trips to visit Project Hope IDA's animal sanctuary in Mississippi. Judy joined another volunteer and Project Hope Director Doll Stanley on the road, renting a truck to bring 18 dogs to the Bay Area for adoption into loving homes. "We also picked up a 10-year-old dog along the way," Judy remembers. "She was in really bad shape—full of mange, starved practically to death, and suffering from anemia due to the number of fleas attacking her constantly. Angie ended up being my beloved little angel who is in heaven now."
IDA is honored to work with Judy, and to name her as our Guardian of the Month for April 2007. We look forward to many more years of partnering with her to promote the welfare of animal companions.
What You Can Do
Like Judy, you too can be one of IDA's esteemed Guardian Angels by starting a campaign to make your city or county a Guardian Community. Visit our Guardian City page for a listing of Guardian cities and check whether your city is there. If not, help animal companions by starting a Guardian campaign in your home town and getting your community to adopt compassionate language. Learn how.
Here are some other proactive ways that you can help promote IDA's Guardian Campaign:
- Hand out IDA's Guardian brochure when you table at events. Also ask your veterinarian to put them out in his or her waiting room and for your local animal shelter to give them to those who adopt animals. Order copies today.
- Make a compassionate statement with your wardrobe by wearing a Guardian t-shirt.
- Discuss what it means to be a guardian, not an owner, with your family and friends. Learn more about what makes a responsible guardian.
Learn more about IDA's Guardian Campaign.
IDA's March Guardian of the Month
Inspired Author gives a voice to Animal Guardians
"If you tend to be unusually intuitive and demonstrably caring, compassionate and spiritual; if you sense danger and see the consequences of an action before others do, and if you have a strong aesthetic awareness and appreciation for animals and nature, then I believe you were born a guardian, and therefore you might relate to Help Is On Its Way—A True Story."
Jenna Forrest always loved animals and nature, but it wasn't until she began promoting humane and environmental education that she saw a trend in the classrooms she visited. "About one-fifth of the kids in every classroom tended to understand the concept of guardianship immediately—enough to teach it themselves," says Jenna.
"In every handful of students I could find a thin-skinned child with a deep-thinking mind and yielding heart," adds Jenna, a longtime vegetarian. She recalls one day in particular, when she was observing an ethics-based character education program in South Carolina. She saw a young girl walking into the classroom looking very bright-eyed but I could sense her delicate vulnerability. The child's face reminded her of her own at that age, and she recalled how demoralizing it was growing up in an environment where there was little understanding and encouragement for her love of animals and nature. Over the weeks, Jenna witnessed how the empowering validation offered by this humane education program transformed this shy anxious child into a confident classroom participant.
That was when Jenna wondered what type of transformation might happen if she could reach adults with a book describing the inner thoughts and feelings that some sensitive kids keep hidden. She figured that if more teachers and parents understood that offering sensitive children skills and environments to help them thrive and navigate their own lives, they could turn into creative, powerful and instrumental members of society.
The idea brought tears to her eyes, and on that very day Jenna began writing about the subject she knew best—her own experience. Two years later, Help Is On Its Way—A True Story is now complete and on bookstore shelves. In the book, she writes: "I wonder how people get to the point where they think it's normal to throw a tiny body in the garbage along with soda cans and boxes of instant mashed potatoes and take it out to the side of the road to be loaded up in junk trucks…like the Earth's birds are the same as garbage just because they're dead."
Being true to her guardian roots, Jenna's book describes how she nurtured animals and referred to all the animals in her book as "he" or "she" rather than "it." "I hope that describing my thoughts and feelings as a sensitive child will validate the good intentions that others have toward animals and nature," she states. "I want to reach right into the hearts of readers. It would be a great honor if this book might someday serve as a resource on childhood sensitivity for a myriad of social service professionals."
For these reasons and more, IDA is proud to name Jenna Forrest our Guardian of the Month for March 2007.
What You Can Do
Purchase copies of Help Is On Its Way for yourself and offer copies to teachers, relatives, neighbors and friends of sensitive children so that they understand that affinity toward animals and nature is a normal trait that responds well to being embraced with understanding. Learn more about the book and order your copy at www.jennaforrest.com, or visit your local bookstore.
Learn more about IDA's Guardian Campaign.
IDA's February Guardian of the Month
Dr. Jackie Broome
Vet continues to kelp Katrina's victims in Mississippi clinic
When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast almost a year and a half ago, Dr. Jackie Broome's clinic, Coast Veterinary Hospital, was destroyed. More than 30 animals drowned in the flood, as well as a couple of her own companions. What surprised Dr. Broome most upon returning to the scene of destruction was people's response. "I had clients come back after the storm and crawl in through the clinic's broken front window to find their animals. Even when I had to break the bad news that an animal had died, the guardians would hug me and tell me it was OK," she said. "Everybody was more concerned about everybody else than themselves. It really touched my heart."
Dr. Broome, a private practitioner, tried to recreate some semblance of her clinic after the floodwaters had receded. She and her staff started working among the ruins to help alleviate some of the vast amount of animal suffering. They did all they could to help the animals who had survived but lost their guardians, from performing emergency surgery to providing emotional comfort. Her work in the Gulf Region has brought her into contact with many rescue groups, including IDA.
Dr. Broome met Doll Stanley when the Project Hope director brought animals in to be spayed/neutered. "Doll struck me as a very focused, dedicated lady, and I enjoyed talking to her about her work with Project Hope," said the vet. In addition, Connie Durkee has made several trips from Portland, Ore. to the clinic in Gulfport, Miss. to transport homeless animals to new homes or shelters in areas not affected by Katrina. "Once we worked with some other groups and, using a mobile clinic, we spayed and neutered 282 animals in three days," remembers Dr. Broome. "Connie told me it that was the first time she was leaving the area with hope that something could actually be done to help improve the situation."
In the midst of disaster, Dr. Broome both treated animals at the clinic and joined rescue missions to search for survivors. She went out looking for cows and horses with the Fish & Game Commission, but they wound up recovering a lot of human bodies. "The experience of seeing my clinic and the rest of the area utterly destroyed and the incredible loss of life is so beyond using words to describe, I get a chill just thinking about," she said. "It runs the emotional gamut from A to Z, from hope, terror and despair to just about everything else."
Yet Dr. Broome believes the tragedy has also brought some transformation. "Katrina reopened people's eyes to animals as companions and friends," she said. "It also really rocked a lot of people's worlds. I mean, families' tents were set up next door to million-dollar homes. Even so, when you have nothing left but everyone's still alive and well and can move on, it makes it ok. I think more people realize now that it's not how much money you have but the quality of your relationships with loved ones — people and animals — that makes life meaningful."
Dr. Broome's values, as expressed in this statement as well as her work with animals, get to the core of what being a guardian is all about: bonding with and caring for the animal companions who need us. Whether it's spending quality time with your friend every day or being prepared to provide for your whole family in an emergency, every guardian can take an active role in improving the quality of their animal companions' lives. As a healer, rescuer and spay/neuter advocate, Dr. Broome also offers an example that people can follow to affect even more animals' lives. IDA is proud to name her our Guardian of the Month for February 2007.
What You Can Do
Dr. Broome and her staff are trying to find homes for many animals from the Gulf Region, many of them the offspring of Katrina survivors who were not spayed/neutered. If you or someone you know would like to adopt or provide a temporary foster home for a homeless dog or cat, please contact the clinic:
Coast Veterinary Hospital
Attn: Katrina animal foster/adoption
3401 Hewes Avenue
Gulfport, MS 39507
Tel: (228) 864-7122
Learn more about IDA's Guardian Campaign.
IDA's Guardian of the Month for January ~ Bryan Kortis
IDA is proud to name Bryan Kortis, feral cat advocate extraordinaire, as our Guardian of the Month for January 2007. Bryan is the co-founder and Executive Director of Neighborhood Cats, a New York City-based non-profit that specializes in the management of feral cats using Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR). He started the organization in 1999, when there were no resources in the area for feral cats and most people thought of them only as vermin.
"There was a colony of about 30 cats and kittens living in a vacant lot on my block, fending for themselves on the street as best they could," said Bryan. "I found out that there was no place these cats could go: the city shelters were already filled to capacity, all the rescue groups were overwhelmed, and most feral cats are considered too wild for adoption anyway. Two neighbors and myself therefore started taking care of this colony, first by helping to find homes for about two-thirds of the cats and having the rest spayed and neutered. This allowed me to learn about TNR firsthand, and get Neighborhood Cats off the ground and running."
Based on his long experience in the field, Bryan maintains that TNR is not only the most humane way of dealing with feral cats, but also the only effective method of managing their numbers and environmental impact. The basic TNR approach is to trap all the ferals in an area, spay/neuter them and then return them to their territory. Caretakers then provide daily food for the cats and basic shelter from the elements (often made from everyday materials such as wood, plastic or even Styrofoam).
TNR has many advantages over simply euthanizing feral cats, which has been the standard population management method used by most animal control agencies (though that is starting to change as the effectiveness of TNR becomes more apparent). For one thing, spaying and neutering ferals prevents new litters of unwanted kittens from being born, significantly reducing the number of cats that must be euthanized in shelters. It also reduces disruptive mating behaviors that most communities would consider a nuisance, such as noisily fighting in the middle of the night and scent-marking territory with urine.
Another key reason why TNR is a better solution than euthanizing ferals is that when established cats are removed and destroyed, other cats inevitably move into the unoccupied territory. Often these animals have not been neutered or spayed, so they quickly repopulate the area and the problem starts all over again. In contrast, cats who are returned to the colony guard their terrain and keep other cats out.
Neighborhood Cats has grown immensely in the last seven years, and is now able to offer guidance and a range of helpful resources for feral cat colony caretakers in the New York metropolitan area and around the country. The group formally consists of three full-time staffers and three part-time staffers who manage a network of hundreds of caretakers and coaches (i.e., more experienced people who train others to take care of colonies). Neighborhood Cats is also now part of one of the most comprehensive TNR programs in the U.S., which is coordinated under the umbrella of the New York City Feral Cat Council, a coalition of animal organizations that has only developed in recent years.
IDA is a strong supporter of Neighborhood Cats. IDA staffer Valerie Sicignano has worked with the group to assist other TNR groups and create new TNR programs and resources in New York City. "Bryan is a pioneer in bringing together feral cat TNR groups with bird and wildlife organizations to discuss ways to work toward the common goal of having fewer cats born outside," she notes. "His cooperative approach has advanced the TNR movement around the globe." In addition, IDA founder and President Dr. Elliot Katz is a member of Neighborhood Cats' Board of Advisors.
IDA has also co-sponsored the National Feral Cat Summit for the past three years. The 2004 Summit was the first national event to focus on the issue of TNR, and has drawn attendees from almost every U.S. state, as well as other countries such as Taiwan, Italy, Belgium and Canada. While Neighborhood Cats administers the NYC Feral Cat Initiative, a very active local program in New York City sponsored by the Mayor's Alliance for NYC's animals, the Summit is one of the group's most important national programs. Bryan also travels around the country to give presentations at conferences and workshops, and authored the first nationally-distributed TNR handbook as well as an online TNR course.
Neighborhood Cats also runs a feral cat food bank for feral cat caretakers and a colony registration database for gathering information with the goal of providing solid statistical evidence of TNR's effectiveness. According to estimates, there are anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of feral cats in New York City alone. In order to solve this problem, it is essential for advocacy groups like Neighborhood Cats to convince animal control agencies around the country to replace lethal management methods with TNR. The information compiled in the database will hopefully enable them to conclusively prove that TNR works.
Bryan is driven to help feral cats by his belief that the lives of all animals are inherently valuable, much like each human life is sacred. "I don't value cats more than any other species, but I saw that feral cats needed my help, so I wound up starting Neighborhood Cats for that reason," he says. "The whole thing just developed organically, without me having an intention to make this my career." Amazingly, he is still the caretaker of the original colony he took responsibility for back in 1999, though today there are only two cats left, a state of affairs that dramatically illustrates how effective TNR can be in reducing feral cat populations.
A lifelong animal lover, Bryan has been vegan for about 14 years and shares his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment with four rescued cats and four fish. In both his work and home life, Bryan is a strong proponent of IDA's Guardian Campaign. "Those who care for feral cats exemplify the ideals behind the 'guardian' concept," he has said. "These cats are homeless…and rely on the compassion of caring people to feed and look after them. For guardians of feral cats, the reward for their service is the health and well-being of their wards and knowing they've prevented more suffering in this world. Their selflessness is a model for all human relations to animals."
IDA is honored to name Bryan our Guardian of the Month for January 2007, and to support the work of Neighborhood Cats.
What You Can Do
If you live in or will be visiting New York City this weekend, attend a workshop being presented by Neighborhood Cats entitled "Trap-Neuter-Return: How to Manage a Feral Cat Colony." This workshop will cover everything a feral colony caretaker needs to know, and all attendees will be TNR certified. The workshop will be presented on Saturday, January 6th and Monday, January 15th at the ASPCA on East 92nd Street. Learn more about this event and how you can register.