Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Amy Smart spent her first 18 years living in Topanga Canyon, a unique community on the outskirts of Los Angeles, bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the San Fernando Valley, that remains a throwback to the “hippie” enclaves of the ‘60’s. Amy reflects on those early years.
“It wasn’t a normal place in which to grow up. There weren’t sidewalks, and it was a hike to go to the local store. It was just so beautiful and wonderful growing up there. We went on nature hikes and there were so many great dogs that lived in Topanga. Just to be in the mountains with the creeks and snakes and wildflowers… all the beauty of living in the canyon was just a real treat that I can now look back on and appreciate.”
“I never felt like I really grew up in Los Angeles,” she continues. “I would go into Hollywood once in a while for the nightclubs, or go to the mall and go shopping. Nature was a major part of my makeup growing up. It’s part of who I am. My parents are the same way. They’re not the classic “hippie” types that you would think.”
“Mom was involved with Heal the Bay doing some volunteer work. We’d go to their beach clean-ups, and she was always adamant about recycling even when it wasn’t as popular as it is today. So my Mom pretty much guided me in that direction. When I was about 17 I really wanted to get involved with Heal the Bay myself. But I wanted to help in a way that I could teach people one-on-one to learn more about the environment. So I took their speaker-training course for a month and started speaking all around LA to kids as young as kindergartners as well as to people in old age homes. I did this for a good 5 or 6 years. I preferred the kids because they’re such sponges and really get enthusiastic about what you’re teaching them, immediately wanting to make a difference. I’d go to classrooms and auditoriums. Or bring a class to the beach and teach them about the ocean and cleaning up the beaches and the litter and the storm drains.”
“I’m still really involved with them, but now that I’ve become more well-known and have more work under my belt I do celebrity-type publicity for them. I don’t really have time now to do the individual speaking engagements, but I tried to as long as I could because I really enjoyed it… until it got to the point where the kids were asking for my autograph. Heal the Bay is working on some serious issues that need support and they can always use volunteers, young and old. You can help out in many ways, doing whatever gets you excited and passionate. The bottom line is to do what you can!” (Visit www.healthebay.org for more on this.)
In addition to being a board member of Heal the Bay, Amy also sits on the board of the Environmental Media Association with last April’s Pet Press cover story Ed Begley, Jr., whom she says “is one of my heroes.”
Like Begley, Amy believes that Earth Day should become a way of life for people every day. “I hope that Earth Day brings awareness to people and that it stays with them through the year, and that hopefully good seeds are planted on this day if they go to an Earth Day festival. Then I hope they go home and recycle, or start to use some environmentally friendly products, or get involved with some local or national organization. Just do something that is pro environment.”
As Amy Smart’s career continues to blossom, she takes her “celebrity” position very serious. “It’s sort of like modern day royalty. With the greater position that you achieve in life comes more responsibility. I really believe that, in itself, is such a gift. There are so many perks and you make so much money. You pretty much have a charmed life. Of course it can be difficult and the fame is not easy whatsoever, but I think it’s important to give back. Actually, no matter what you do I think it’s important to give back. But because you’re in the public eye it’s important to set an example for whatever you’re passionate about and whatever you believe in.”
In addition to environmental causes, Amy’s other passion is animals. “I’m grateful for every organization that goes out of their way to rescue animals and find loving homes for them.”
As a fan of Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Amy has attended a number of Best Friends’ LA events, which included a brief appearance at their recent Lint Roller party. And last year before their big pet adoption festival, she and some friends went to the South LA Animal Shelter and groomed about 40 dogs. “It was so amazing, just scrubbing the animals and cutting the mats off them. You could see the changes in their personalites from lonely, scared animals to being happy and proud and wanting to find homes. It was as if they knew there was a chance for them.”
Amy was also a first time presenter on The 17th Annual Genesis Awards (airing Sunday, May 4th at noon on Animal Planet.) “I was completely inspired and sobbing at that event. I didn’t expect it to be so elaborate and extravagant. I was overwhelmed with emotion at so many heroes in the audience- all the different people who won awards and who were nominated or were special honorees. Like the Thai woman who rescues the elephants from the streets that are used to promote tourism and puts them in her sanctuary. And the Animal Precinct show… all those cops that are such heroes who find animal abusers and put them away and then rescue these beautiful creatures. Every part of that event touched me. I presented the Kodak award for their outstanding commercial promoting pet adoptions. This event was such a place of beautiful humanity gathering together and celebrating what we can do with our power and how we can help this planet. I definitely want to be a part of it again.”
Amy’s friend, “eco-stylist” Danny Seo, got her involved with the Humane Society to help with their fur-free campaign, which included an event during Fashion Week. She co-hosted a big party on April 2nd with “people who don’t think fur is fashionable. Faux fur is becoming more popular because it’s more environmentally and humanely sound. Faux fur is great. Fur just isn’t necessary.”
“We also did a public signing against Dolce & Gabbana because of the jackets they make in Canada. They’re killing hundreds of thousands of seal pups every year to make seal skin jackets and pants. It’s really terrible and I’m glad that a campaign against this started at this party.”
That event was also the official coming out party for the Fur Free Necklace, the brainchild of Seo’s, which is a delicate silver strand with the letters “FF” dangling from it in rhinestones, that’s available for $15 at www.hsus.org.
Amy’s compassion for animals, meanwhile, began with a dog and a bird. “We had a golden retriever named Charlie I grew up with since I was about 4. And when I was 7 I got a little cockatiel, who’s still alive, named Nicky. Nicky was an amazing bird to grow up with. He would sit on my cereal bowl and eat cereal with me, and when I brushed my teeth he’d try to taste my toothpaste. He was such a great little companion. My brother now takes care of Nicky because I have two cats.”
Why cats instead of dogs? “Growing up I was never allowed to have cats, so of course I was incredibly intrigued by them. As soon as I got my own apartment I got two little kittens that came from a pregnant cat a friend of mine rescued from the side of the road. Their names are Yogi and Nala, and they’re brothers, now 7. One is an orange striped tabby and the other is black. It was really important for me to get two cats, because I work long days. I’d feel terrible leaving one alone by itself.”
“I LOVE my cats. They sleep right next to my head. And they’re so loving with each other. My cats also refuse to drink out of their water bowl. They love the bathroom. They just want me to put on my tub so the water just drips… they love to watch it come out and drink from the faucet. They’re also very sweet and just want to be loved in a quiet, peaceful environment. A lot of noise can set them off. They jump on all my things and have scratched up all my furniture. But I would NEVER declaw my cats. I don’t believe in it. You get a cat and you deal with what it does. It makes me sad when people declaw their cats. You get a puppy and they chew half your things, but you just have to deal with it. That’s the price you pay for having a beautiful animal in your house. Get over it!!”
“I think everybody should have an animal,” Amy continues. “It opens your heart. It’s the most unconditional, loving creature to ever walk into your life. It’s a gift that keeps on giving to have these beautiful animals in your home. I can’t begin to tell you how much happiness I’ve had with my cats. They bring endless joy into my heart every single day. I would only hope that pets could do that for everybody.”
(Amy Smart will be seen in HBO’s Project Greenlight 2 this summer. Her upcoming films soon to be released includeBlind Horizon with Val Kilmer and The Butterfly Effectwith Ashton Kutcher. And she’s currently in production onStarsky & Hutch with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.)
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