Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Michael Bell is one of the busiest voice animators in the country, which he says is basically an off-camera actor. Remember the Parkay margarine commercials of the 70’s? That was HIS voice that brought that ad campaign to life for its first five years. With several hundred commercials currently airing that he’s given voice to, he was hard pressed to recall them all, although he did admit to being the voice for Forest Lawn, Target and Zales Jewelry.
For those familiar with Rugrats, he was the voice of Chas, Drew and Boris in both the TV series and the 1998 hit film. And he just completed the second Rugrats movie due out next year, with Susan Sarandon as his leading lady.
I could continue listing his credits, which include narrations for The Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and The History Channel as well as teaching voice animation, but I won’t. What’s important to Michael is that "I’m doing what I love for a living."
Because of his success he’s been able to provide a much-needed voice for animals off the screen as well, through his grass roots political campaigns and by reaching into his own pocket to support organizations trying to make a difference in the L.A.area.
When asked how he got involved in animal welfare he replied, "I guess the real question is how could I not get involved?"
He traces his animal activism to the time he helped Gretchen Wyler (founder of The Ark Trust, Inc. and The Genesis Awards) fight the pound seizure issue. "It was when the City of L.A. used to sell the shelter animals that weren’t adopted to research labs, " Michael recalls. "It was standard procedure at that time, and we fought it along with other animal groups. I just got caught up in the spirit of it."
Next he got involved with Chris De Rose, and together they started Last Chance for Animals, a group that’s active in rescuing animals from research labs.
"Now I’m involved with legislation and trying to change laws statewide," Bell explained.
Other causes Michael was involved with included stopping the use of leg-hold traps in the City of L.A., which was a policy the department used to trap wildlife (coyotes, possums, skunks, racoons, etc.)
"At one point I sued the Department of Animal Regulation," he continued, "because I felt they were in violation of the public trust… they weren’t keeping proper records. The suit lasted over 3 years and brought to light many indiscretions they were guilty of. As a result there have been some wonderful changes."
And for a time Michael was president of the Wildlife Protection League, with whom he fought for the protection of the red fox. "I get involved in worldwide issues, like others, by E-mailing Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbit because I disagree with him. But most of my animal welfare work is local."
Because he is so well-known in the animal-welfare area, Michael says he gets calls for everything, including, "I found a dog. Where should I take it?"
"It’s hard to get people to take a stray to the shelter," Mike explains, "because the shelters still have the stink of history attached to it. We had a horrendous management of our six shelters here in L.A. for the past 40 years. It takes a long time for the word to get out that things are different now."
"If you’ve found a pet," he continues, "absolutely take it to the nearest shelter immediately. You can put an "IP" (interested party) on it, indicating you would get first dibs on the animal if it’s not claimed by the owner four days after you bring it to the shelter. Then list the information about the animal with every possible resource, including free ads in the L.A. Times and Daily News. Next you’ve got to put up big, bright neon-colored signs with clear information, but NOT too much information. Clearly stipulate "found dog, the area, and maybe big or little." That’s it! You don’t want someone calling you with information you’ve provided claiming it’s his dog, because it may NOT be his dog, and he may have some devious motive in mind. There’s also a web site which I helped start called www.metropettracker.com,where you can post a picture of your lost or found pet. At this sight you want to list ALL the information you have about the animal. And you should also look in The Pet Press, because it lists so many rescue groups, which can also be extremely helpful."
Michael is very vocal about what corporations such as Dreamworks, Warner Brothers and Disney could do to support our city’s animals. "These companies make a fortune predicated on animals and animated characters. This is not a left-wing, controversial position," he explains. "This says, hey, we have made a fortune on the antics and the images of animals over the years. So how about putting some of that money in to support the Department of Animal Regulation and their spay-neuter programs? They could contribute money for a mobile spay and neuter van (for which funds are now being raised) that will travel into the poorest sections of the city where there is an endemic problem of animals running around the streets, dying terrible deaths, because of lack of education. Or they could donate money to the animal rescue organizations which are all non-profit. They could give money to the department for an educational fund. Or how about providing funding for inner city youngsters to go to Pierce College’s Veterinary School? We need more vets in the South Central and North Central areas."
Michael has some suggestions for individual animal lovers as well. "If everybody in L.A. who has a dog or a cat gave just one dollar a year for each animal in their household to an animal organization, that would be an enormous amount of money."
"The next thing the public can do is not go to breeders. Until we can ascertain who the responsible breeders are who really adhere to the credo of caring for animals and not just unloading them on the public just to make money," Michael urges, "stay away from the breeders."
"If you want a dog or cat, get one out of the shelter," he continues. "Or go to a good rescue organization, like the ones listed in The Pet Press. Then you know to some degree you are doing something really wonderful."
"You can also assist a rescue organization by doing computer work, or walking animals, cleaning cages, brushing animals, etc. And the Department of Animal Services always needs volunteers."
Michael shares two dreams for the future. "If you have a concern for wildlife, stop eating meat. Stop eating animals. When you eat animals," he explains, "you provide a reason for the cattleman’s association and the dairy association to continue to house and mistreat and destroy animals. By not eating meat there would be no reason for the United States and the individual states to legally destroy hundreds of thousands of wild animals that disturb the cattle, sheep, pigs and chickens which you do eat."
"I’m also hoping that people will speak up and not compare anyone’s passion for animals to the passion for human beings. One does not preclude the other. Be a little fairer and actually honor us because we are passionate about something good. We’re passionate about saving lives… and about protecting lives. Even though they are animals, we are still passionate about them. But it does not preclude that we are not passionate about people, because most of the people I work with, most, not all, have families and kids. Those are the things, for me, that I would like to see for the new millenium."
If it wasn’t obvious in the beginning, by now you understand how passionate Michael Bell is about all animals. In addition to his busy voice over career and his animal welfare work, Michael has a lovely wife, a 14-year old animal activist daughter, and is "owned and manipulated by 5 dogs, 2 feral cats, and a new kitten," which, of course, were all strays that he rescued.
Michael Bell does not only use his voice for animals on the screen (listen for him as Pongo in Disney’s 102 Dalmatiansto be released on video next year). His life’s passion is being a voice for animals everywhere. How fortunate we are that his is an active voice in our animal community!
First published in August of 1999, The Pet Press has become THE only local resource for
pet lovers in the Los Angeles area. The mission of The Pet Press is three-fold:
Each issue of The Pet Press contains the following sections: