You have dog people, you have cat people, and you have people who are both cat and dog people. Then you have people like Katie Cleary (America’s Next Top Model), who is a friend to all animals.
I first met Katie in 2010 at Laugh for Sight, the comedy benefit I run in Los Angeles. The great thing about Katie is there is much more to her than a beautiful face. Like me, she is a lover of all things fluffy and furry. I was blown away by all of the work she does to rescue animals and raise awareness about the issues our favorite furry friends are battling.
With her documentary Give Me Shelter getting ready to be released worldwide, I felt it would be a good time to catch up with Katie.
Dogster: Did you grow up with animals?
Katie Cleary: My Mom had a wonderful cat named Casper before I was born. He became the love of my life, as we had him for 21 years. Growing up we also had another cat named Spooky. I had a tremendous bond with them, and knew early on that I wanted to work with animals
When did you get your first dog?
It wasn’t until I moved to Los Angeles. As soon as I moved here, I had to get a dog. My first rescue was Charlie; we think he is an Australian Shepherd.
With four dogs and three cats, does the Cleary household ever get too Dr. Doolittle-ish?
Oh yeah, it is crazy, but a good crazy, especially whenever we have guests over, and now that we have added a family of doves to the mix.
Along with Charlie, there is Butch, the grumpy one. He is a 13-year-old German Shepherd–Lab mix. We rescued him from Compton. Lucky is a Chihuahua mix and had been hit by a car. Wolfie, who is a menace, is a Husky-Alaskan mutt who we found in a parking lot.
And the cats and dogs all get along?
Our latest addition comes from a litter that Alison Eastwood and I rescued. Out of the 12 cats, only one of them got along with our Husky. He is fearless. He doesn’t even realize the Husky is twice his size. He will walk right up to him, and sit on his head. They all get along great.
What’s the best part of rescuing an animal?
They know that you saved them. The way they look at you every day in such a loving thankful way, there is nothing else like it.
How did you come to get involved with animal advocacy?
My Mom had a very strong passion for rescuing squirrels, rabbits, and birds. We would nurture them back to health and then rerelease them back in to the wild.
As a girl I had a very deep connection with cats, which led to my first campaign to Congress to do something about the dwindling tiger population in India. I always loved wild animals and big cats — anything furry.
You are a friend of all animals. With so many animal issues globally, how do you decide where to focus your energy?
Currently, I would say that the animals in the most dire situation are tigers, dolphins, rhinos, and elephants. Due to poaching, all of their numbers have dwindled terribly. It’s a worldwide epidemic, which everyone should be concerned about.
You are producing a documentary called Give Me Shelter. I know National Geographic called it a must-see. What are you hoping it accomplishes?
We want to raise awareness about what is going on from puppy mills to the fur trade. During a recent screening it amazed me how many people were taking notes, as they were unaware of the atrocities taking place all over the world against animals.
If we can raise awareness and get people to take action, then the film is a success. I think if the film can reach countries like India and Africa, where the biggest animal abuses are taking place, then we can change the world.
We are still finalizing some distribution deals, but we expect a worldwide release in June 2014. It will be on the Internet, and possibly on Netflix, so check our sites and social networks for updates soon.
The film features appearances by Alison Eastwood, Michael Vartan (Alias), Esai Morales (La Bamba), Charlotte Ross (NYPD Blue), Elaine Hendrix (The Parent Trap), Kristen Renton (Sons of Anarchy), Robert Davi (The Goonies), Tippi Hedren (The Birds), Rick O’Barry (Lenny), and more.
Watch the trailer here:
Tell us about Peace for Animals, your other advocacy group.
We wanted to have an organization geared towards wild animals and endangered species. We founded the organization a year and a half ago, and our first benefit was with Betty White. Our goal is to raise money for several different organizations.
It’s hard work but seeing progress makes it all worth it. Seeing celebrities like Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono lend their voices to animals who can’t speak up tells me we are headed in the right direction. Even CNN is becoming more focused and helping to raise awareness about all of the animal atrocities taking place around the world. Our goal is to put pressure on the countries where animal abuses are taking place.
Tell us a little about World Animal News.
It’s a weekly show that Kristen Renton and I host on tradiov.com. Each week we focus on the latest issues affecting animals and mammals. The show has been very well received, and we have been getting more and more celebs on to talk about the animal issues they are most concerned about.
What’s the best part of having cats and dogs in your life?
The love that they give you and the bond that you have with them. There really isn’t anything else like it. It amazes me that your animals always know how you are feeling and they just want to make you feel better.
Check out these adorable stories on Dogster:
Do you know of a rescue hero — dog, human, or group — we should profile on Dogster? Write us at email@example.com.
About the author: Brian Fischler is a standup comedian and writer. He has been seen on The Today Show, published in Maxim Magazine as the Comedian of the Month, and on Top Gear USA on The History Channel. Along with writing for Dogster, Brian also writes for Cesar Milan’s website and magazine. Brian also runs Laugh For Sight, a bicoastal comedy benefit featuring the biggest names in comedy that come together to raise money and awareness for retinal degenerative eye disease research. You can connect with Brian on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @Blindgator.