and dog rescuer
Every dog has its day, especially if it’s embraced by the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation.
The nonproft foundation, created by award-winning actress Linda Blair, focuses on helping dogs of all breeds and sizes, many of which are abandoned and neglected and end up in shelters, only to face the prospect of being euthanized.
The foundation’s beginnings were rooted in her own personal experiences.
“In the 1980s I became involved with pet theft because someone stole my personal dog out of my yard in Los Angeles. And I began working with one of the best animal welfare groups in America, Last Chance for Animals,” said Blair, who is best known for her role in “The Exorcist.”
She and Chris DeRose, president of the Last Chance group, worked together to help investigate cases of animal cruelty. In addition to working with DeRose for several years, Blair volunteered her time with several large animal welfare groups across the country.
She was not satisfied with what the groups were doing. Then her mother passed away in 1994.
It was during this time of loss that Blair met Sonny Boy, a pitbull terrier who followed her one day as she walked to her house.
The dog never left her side until he eventually died of old age not long after. He inspired her, Blair said.
“I needed to make some necessary changes to fulfill my soul, my spirit, my life. And I began rescuing with the mentorship of the few rescuers that were actually in America. Back then it was all very new,” Blair said.
“So from 1997 on, when I became more and more involved with rescue, we could clear a shelter each week from euthanizing any animal. ... What has developed is an absolute crisis in that there is no amount of people with good hearts and rescuers that can contain the amount of animals that are literally being born to die. So in 2003, I started my foundation, which is the Linda Blair World Heart Foundation.”
But the challenges kept coming. Blair and her new foundation fought against a breed ban that was being discussed in Sacramento.
“I could not stop BSL, which is Breed Specific Legislation, ... known in California as the Dangerous Dog Act. The reason we are facing these different issues across America and California is not the animals but the owners,” Blair said.
The influx of abandoned dogs, mostly pitbulls, was not only because of their reputation but because of the economy, Blair said. With the downturn of the economy in 2008, “the insurance companies were allowed to implement the BSL on their consumers, the homeowners who were left with the choice of whether to give up their pet, give up their home, move, and people did not know what to do. So they started relinquishing their pets.”
Blair’s foundation has helped to rescue dogs that have been part of the pet overpopulation in the shelters, victims of desert dumping and the result of owners not spaying and neutering their pets. Blair said all of the pets that are rescued are spayed and neutered before they are placed for adoption.
All of Blair’s dogs are also considered “last-minute rescue” dogs.
“I will basically leave it to the last minute before I pull them from a shelter, hoping somebody will adopt them. So I don’t go in and take the high-profile pet. I take the one that is truly there because of an unforseen circumstance,” she said on a recent afternoon at her rescue in Acton as dogs barked and playful growls could be heard.
There is no set number of dogs at the ranch because many of them are adopted or transferred to other rescues to make room for more dogs at Blair’s ranch.
Blair said that people need to understand the importance of not only caring for a prospective pet but understanding their needs and having a connection with them.
“It’s an adoption agency where we find the right relationship, the right animal for you and your family,” Blair said. “Tell me what you want to do. Are you home? Are you not home? Do you hike? Do you travel? What are you willing to do? Are you active, are you not?
“These dogs tell me what they want, and then the person will come and say, ‘There’s five dogs I’m interested in,’ and I’ll say, ‘This one needs to be with a pack, this one can be alone, this one will fit into your apartment. Your apartment is 35 pounds and under so you can only have a small dog,” she said.
Breed-specific dogs have become popular due to celebrities like Paris Hilton carrying a small dogs in their purses or because of movies such as “101 Dalmatians” and “Beverly Hills Chihuahua,” Blair said.
“You had the movie ‘Beverly Hills Chihuahua,’ so everybody wanted a Chihuahua,” she said. “Then they don’t want a Chihuahua, and you saw all the breeding.
“They’re everywhere. Then the ‘101 Dalmatians.’ There was this run on Dalmatians, everybody had to have a Dalmatian. Well you kinda need to know what you are doing with a Dalmatian. They don’t just sit pretty on a fire truck,” Blair said with a laugh. “They have many different personalities, but they definitely can get into things, and they don’t just sit around.”
Blair’s foundation helps to educate potential dog owners who want to adopt on topics such as nutrition and understanding how the surroundings and environment, such as weather, can affect the dog, Blair said.
Blair, who is a vegan, encourages pet owners to help their pets develop healthy eating habits. She has noticed a link between potato and other starch-type foods and cancer.
“So if you have a skin condition or ‘what is this on my dog?’ a lot of times it’s fungal-driven, which means it’s coming from a potato or a starch. It’s the food. They’re allergic to certain things. Once that starts happening, within three years you’re going to be looking at cancer. That’s the research I’ve been doing,” she said.
In addition, Blair said owners should always spay and neuter their dogs, and she said it’s also important to report incidents of animal cruelty,
The Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation has helped rescue hundreds of dogs all over the country. Blair has traveled to areas stricken by natural disasters to help animals that may have been stranded or left behind by their owners.
“Out here I always say to my adopters, ‘Do you have your earthquake kit ready?’ I’m like a mother to everybody. I want it (earthquake kit) in your car — sneakers, water, food, for you and your pets. I want that in your house because it can be cold. Something is going to happen. Flashlights, batteries, make your kits. At least for the animals I tell them, ‘Make sure you have your earthquake kits. Have a crate.’ If you can’t move to a safer area, at least you can contain your animal or animals safely,” Blair said.
Blair said shelters in California have the highest euthanasia rates in the country.
“California is very volatile, it’s the highest kill in America,” she said. “I don’t think a lot of people know that. So we need to do better. Come on Los Angeles people! It’s the City of Angels, let’s step it up!
“I’m one of the main people who is out in the country trying to find the balance. Not through anger — of course, we are angry and upset, our friends are dying — but to try to find the change,” Blair said.
For more information on the foundation, visit http://www.lindablairworldheart.org. For spay and neuter information, visit lucypetfoundation.org or angeldogsfoundation.org.