Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
“I am actually proud of my career,” Charlotte said recently. “I’ve worked a long time to prove myself other than what people perceived me as- a long blonde-haired former soap actress. I’ve played a lot of down and outs, and I’ve done a lot of comedy. I’ve really bounced around and I’m thankful for the fact that I’ve been a continual working actor for a long time.”
Raised in Winnetka, Illinois, Charlotte had an agent when she was 15 and her first movie role a year later. “I knew what I wanted to do since I was 5, which was a weird thing, because where I’m from there are not a lot of people that make their living as an actor.”
She studied with Chicago’s major theater groups and two weeks after high school landed the role of mean teen hooker, Eve Donovan, on Days of Our Lives. “It amazes me when I look back now, what blind ambition I had, because it’s a hard business, and it can be a hard town.” A town she moved to all by herself, directly after her graduation.
“If I wasn’t an actress I would definitely be a full time activist in some way,” Charlotte admits. “I’ve always had this affinity towards animals, many different types of animals. and I’ve always wondered where it comes from.”
Charlotte did grow up with dogs and thinks children should always grow up with a pet.
“It had a profound affect on me. My dogs were always my best friends.” First she had Penny, a beagle mix, and then Mugsy, a mixed springer spaniel. “The range of feelings that my dog had still sticks in my mind today. Growing up with that I couldn’t imagine not treating animals either with respect or with a certain amount of rights. It got hard for me as I learned more about how many animals are put to sleep… and about overbreeding… and as I got more into it, I learned about all these different types of animal organizations.”
Busy with her career and establishing herself as an actress, it wasn’t until Charlotte left her soap opera that she finally got a dog in LA. That was Katy, her one-eyed pekinese who is now about 11 ½ years old. “To be honest, this was before I knew as much as I do now and was as active as I am now with animal rights. I’m embarrassed to say, but I got her from a pet shop in The Beverly Center. 2 years later I found out more about these kinds of shops and the kind of breeders that bring in dogs like Katy. Since then I’ve learned, and I joke to this day that Katy is very snooty and thinks she’s above it all because of where she came from. I’ve learned a lot since.”
When she finally got a house in the canyon, Charlotte decided she wanted a dog she could go hiking with. “By this time I was volunteering with spcaLA and doing things like brushing and feeding the dogs… things that might not have seemed like much but made such a big difference. Everybody should do a little something if they can. I ended up being part of their foster program, which I had never heard about before. They had found a dog that had just had 8 puppies in East LA. So I took in the mom and her 7 pups. I loved it. I’d rotate holding them, and I was determined to get these cute little dogs good homes. As time went on they were all adopted, but I was worried because I had gotten so attached to ‘Ma.’ She was the sweetest dog. Then Bob Barker took her on The Price Is Right and she was adopted. I was so happy, and of course, now I’m just the biggest fan of Bob Barker.”
“During that time a neighbor had 2 dogs that ended up pregnant. Then one day I looked up at this woman’s house and saw 16 puppies jammed on the balcony. I had just committed to a series in LA so I took one of the dogs, a lab-german shepherd mix, Alex, who is now 5 ½. I ended up taking the other puppies to shelters where they were adopted. But that’s just another thing that made me even more outspoken about why dogs should always be neutered and spayed. All the dogs that are being killed daily, it just maddens me that it’s not a standard thing.”
Her third dog, Taco, was a stray she rescued while doing a movie in Puerto Rico a few years ago. “He looks very much like a jack russell, but it’s a guessing game. What’s funny is that I thought he was very old because his head hung low and he didn’t have a lot of energy. Later I found out that he was less than a year old. He’s the most cuddly, thankful dog you’ve ever seen in your life. I can’t imagine ever not getting a shelter dog.”
“I will say it was interesting to bring in a dog from the street.” she continues. “I had some random bones laying on the ground for example, and he almost killed my pekinese. I remember thinking, you don’t need to fight anymore. Then one day I had Taco on one shoulder cuddling and Alex, the big lab on the other, both vying for my attention. All of a sudden I hear this growling and they totally went at it. I thought that perhaps I’d gone too far- taking in a street dog. So I held him and told him, one more time, this is the last straw. From then on it never happened again. He was the best thing I’ve ever done. I look at Taco and I think about how many Tacos are put to sleep on a daily basis. I have to say that Puerto Rico and Taco were a real turning point for me in terms of what shelter dogs have to offer.”
Because of her work schedule, Charlotte doesn’t get to do her volunteer work like she used to for spcaLA. But to feel like she isn’t out of it completely, she writes letters for organizations like the Doris Day Animal League or even the Anti-Vivesection Society. “On a day off I would pick and choose letters that sometimes seemed frivolous, but made me feel a lot better. Even if you can’t go to the shelters and offer more hands-on help, there are things you could do. I’m very, very passionate about things. I feel like I can never do enough. I wish I could have enough land so I could have a no-kill sanctuary. That’s our biggest problem. There simply isn’t enough room for all the animals that need homes.”
Charlotte’s compassion for animals was put to good use when she was tapped to co-host the 15th Annual Genesis Awards, airing on Animal Planet May 12th at 6 and 9pm and May 13th at 10am.
Although she had never heard of the Genesis Awards before she was asked to host it, she says, “I was very proud and really touched to be a part of the show. Throughout my career, whatever awards shows I’ve done or will do, I can honestly say that this is the most important show to me. I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I was on the edge of my seat watching tapes they had sent me of the previous shows. And during this year’s program there were a lot of amazing stories. One was about an area in Korea where they eat dogs, but they think the dogs taste better if they’re scared before being killed. I had to plug my ears backstage because of the cries of the dogs. It was tough. I had to go out there and continue talking with tears coming down my face. It’s beyond me to think about people killing those dogs-- I always personalize it by looking at my dogs.”
“I think it’s really great that there is a show like the Genesis Awards that pat these people on the back. For example, there was a station in Seattle that went against every other station in the US and had the nerve to show how people were killing these fully alive cows in such an inhumane way. To have a show that awards these people is amazing, and I plan to be a part of it or at least watch it every year. I have to say it’s the only awards show I’ve ever been to where there’s kleenex at each table.”
It’s easy to understand how Charlotte could be so moved by the people who dedicate their lives to exposing animal injustices. She admits “if I hadn't gotten into show biz, I would seek out Jane Goodall and go to Tanzania to study the chimpanzees. I think chimps are the most amazing animals on the planet. The fact that they have less than 2% brain capacity difference from humans is something. Jane Goodall discovered that they make tools and go through puberty. They’re so human-like. And then to think that they have no rights at all, like most animals on this earth, it’s beyond maddening.”
“I have enormous respect for people who dedicate their lives to animals,” Charlotte continues. “I’m in a business where a lot of people love a lot of attention and glory. But these are people that do a lot of hard work which I find very fascinating… it’s so NOT about them, which I just find so refreshing.”
Refreshing is actually a great word to describe Charlotte Ross. This petite, beautiful blonde could be perceived as just another starlet in a city overrun with duplicates reaching for that “thing” called fame. But she’s worked long and hard at her acting craft and says that “being famous is not something I strive to do. I hope that people see my work, but I’m sick of guessing if something’s going to be a hit or not, that’s for sure. The only way famous ever sounds good, and I’m being totally honest, would be to use it to promote something like the Genesis Awards.”
As for the role animals play in our lives she says, “in my humble opinion, there is no end to the affect animals can have on humans. Whether it’s with seniors, or prison inmates, or children or people of any age, animals have an amazing, enlightening ability to affect human nature that I think every human can benefit from. I feel really blessed to have my three dogs and can’t imagine life without them. They give me so much endless happiness.”
(In addition to hosting the 15th Annual Genesis Awards, airing on Animal Planet May 12th at 6 and 9pm and May 13that 10am, you can catch Charlotte Tuesdays at 10pm on ABC’s NYPD Blue.)
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
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