Los Angeles pet lovers.
By Lori Golden
Not content to just rest on her laurels, Shannon decided to make use of her growing celebrity by launching her own animal rescue organization last April called Animal Avengers.
Having previously worked with some local rescue groups, Shannon started hearing things about how the money raised was not being used properly and that it wasn't necessarily going to the animals. "I always had this attitude that if you want something done right, you do it yourself," she explained. "So I started thinking, why don't we just start our own rescue organization. I figured there was a lot of press that I get from my films that I could put to better use rather than just promoting a film. That I could actually use it to make a difference in something that was more important… that would actually save lives."
"The more that I'm able to work and build that part of my life, the more influence I'm going to have on people," she continues, "be it somebody here or some young girl in the mid-west that might read an article or see me on TV talking about animals. I want to help educate people and I want people to realize that pound animals are just as good if not better than going anywhere else for an animal. People think that the animals at the pound aren't good animals to get. They don't realize that those are the best animals because they are so thankful… they know you've rescued them. I don't understand when people pay $4000.00 for a dog because it has papers. I've always been told that pure breeds have more mental and health problems. I've gotten a lot of e-mails from people who say they read some of the articles about me and decided to go to a pound instead of a pet store. I just love reading stuff like that."
One might think someone who starts her own rescue organization must have grown up with a lot of animals. Not so with Shannon Elizabeth. For a brief time she had a parakeet, but that was it. "My parents never allowed me to get any animals after that. I always swore when I grew up I was going to have a ton of animals just to spite them. I didn't think I was serious, but I really did have this love for animals. I was born with it. I remember always driving down the roads in Texas and seeing a lot of dead animals in the roads. Not dogs or cats… but squirrels and armadillos. I would always scream and freak out. It always really affected me, seeing animals, especially in pain and danger. I think it just flourished as I got older and was able to do something about it."
And she did! About three years ago after she got a house with her fiancé, a parade of animals began passing through her new home either temporarily or on a more permanent basis. First there was Sasha, who belonged to a friend going overseas who didn't want to put his dog in quarantine. Then came Amber, a Ridgeback- Pit Mix found in Long Beach covered in tar, whose founders couldn't keep her. Next there was Boomer, a terrier pup rescued by another friend. And then they took in a couple of dogs kept by a street person. Both dogs eventually died from distemper, despite trying everything possible to keep them alive.
"It was so traumatic," Shannon remembers. "I never had a dog so close to me die like that before, especially when I was holding him. It was so hard. I was so traumatized and felt so bad that I lost those lives that I had to go to the pound to save one." So they rescued Carmen who looks like a Lab-Chow Mix.
Then came a stray dog that looks like a Husky Mix, found on a downtown street, that they lured into their car with a Chocolate Protein bar. About 10 years old with almost no teeth and riddled with arthritis, they named her Skyler who, when nursed back to health became the "bitchy grandmother" to the other dogs. Next they found an American Eskimo in the street they named Six Buttons, who ended up staying with them when they couldn't find its owner. And Yoda (the Chihuahua mix on the cover) along with another Heinz 57 non-descript dog named Dingo showed up at the Animal Avengers launch party and went home with Shannon when they weren't adopted.
"When we created the charity part of our goal was to keep it young and fresh…to keep it something new that people could grow with. There aren't a lot of charities out there that are really aimed at young people… they are always aimed at an older generation with older money. I wanted it to be something that everyone could relate to that's just fun and lighthearted, geared to high school kids and young kids who could get involved and grow with it."
They settled on the name Animal Avengers because it sounded like a super hero. And their logo, a crime-fighting dog, was designed by Joe Quesada, Editor-in-Chief of Marvel Comics. "He's pretty amazing," says Shannon, "and we were so lucky that he did that for us. As for the name, most people really like it because it sounds young and strong and heroic."
The mission of Animal Avengers is very simple: it's a non-profit animal rescue dedicated to saving animals from the streets and city shelters and placing them into loving homes. "That's where we are with it right now," explains Shannon. "But I have a lot of plans for the future. I don't want it just to be dogs and cats and I don't want it just to be animals off the street, but animals that are in danger anywhere. I want to get into all rescue. But I figured I needed to start somewhere and succeed on a smaller level with something that is more tangible, and then we'd grow."
Recently another local rescue group, Canine Crusaders, merged with Animal Avengers. The expertise of these more experienced rescuers along with Shannon's name and fund-raising ability should eventually result in a powerful and influential organization.
Along with weekend adoptions at three locations (see p.17- column 1 for their times and locations,) they also have an outreach program for people who need to place an animal they can't keep themselves. "They can bring the animal to our adoptions and we'll put pictures of the animals on our website and help adopt them out as our own, with them fostering the animal until it's adopted."
"We want to help people in any way we can to adopt out their animal or reach whatever their goal is. Every time somebody contacts us about anything, we try to get back to them as quickly as possible and not just say I'm sorry, we can't help. Maybe that's just referring them to other people that we know can help, but we try to do everything we can to give them other options."
Shannon is very hands-on with her organization. She helps at the weekend adoptions when she can, but her schedule keeps her pretty busy. "Every day I try to use all the free time I have to work on getting things done. We still don't even have all our forms officially printed out. I've been doing it all on my computer, a little bit at a time as we need it. We've been trying really hard to get as much as possible donated, because when people give any money to the charity I really don't want it to go anywhere but to the animals. I'm trying really hard to make sure that happens."
Animal Avengers is totally comprised of non-paid volunteers. And therein is their greatest need. "I can make the organization grow in some ways faster than the people can handle the growth," explains Shannon. "First and foremost we need volunteers that can help us with our weekend adoptions- to help answer questions, walk the dogs, and set up and break down cages. Just to help run everything there. And we can always use help at our kennel in Gardena to walk the dogs and clean and repair the kennels. We're getting everything fixed so we can optimize the amount of animals we can have there. And hopefully soon we'll have our own van that will have a cool paint job with our logo on it that will go all around town… which should also help us get more volunteers."
"We also need people with vans who can help transport the animals either from the foster homes or the kennel. And we need people to help with our foster program, where anybody who can have an animal at their house for whatever duration, a couple of weeks or a couple of months, will take in the animal. We love to have any help people can give."
Perhaps one of the greatest goals Shannon has for Animal Avengers is "to build some sort of network in LA among all the charities so they can work together rather than against each other. I feel like there's a lot of competition right now among the charities, and I really think that we would better benefit the animals if there was a way for us to communicate and work together. We don't feel like we're competing with anybody, but we would like to be able to help everyone… and we'd love help back. Hopefully a lot of the charities will be game."
"In addition to growing and expanding in LA, we're also hoping to branch out and have organizations across the country so we're not just helping the animals of California, but in as many states as possible."
If you read The Pet Press on a regular basis, you may be thinking that Animal Avengers is just like many of the other animal rescue groups in LA. It's sad to think we live in a city, in a state, and in a country where the need to save animals is so great. Shannon Elizabeth describes herself as "the hugest animal lover ever, who would help any animal in danger and save any animal I could." When you see all that she has accomplished in just one year, you know that she means business, and that her Animal Avengers organization WILL make a difference!
(For more about Animal Avengers and to volunteer your services, visit them online at www.animalavengers.com or call 323-655-4220. And keep reading The Pet Press for information on their next fundraiser, expected to take place in the fall.)
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