Interview With Actor Lou Wegner
Lou is The National Youth Ambassador for the American Humane Association
By Jordan Schaul | National Geographic | January 14, 2014
-A Discussion With Teen Actor/Animal Activist Lou Wegner - January 14, 2014
Dr. Jordan Schaul introduces teen actor Lou Wegner as the newest young crusader and first young celebrity crusader to be featured in Nat Geo. Lou serves as National Youth Ambassador for the American Humane Association. He also hosted Young Hollywood For Humanity at the Hero Dog Awards in Beverly Hills and was named the 2013 Pet Hero of The Year by Pet Philanthropy Circle.
Dr. Jordan Schaul introduces teen actor Lou Wegner as the newest young crusader and first young celebrity crusader to be featured in Nat Geo.
Lou serves as National Youth Ambassador for the American Humane Association. He also hosted Young Hollywood For Humanity at the Hero Dog Awards in Beverly Hills and was named the 2013 Pet Hero of The Year by Pet Philanthropy Circle. Lou accepted the honor with Christie Brinkley for their work on behalf of animals.
The 18 yr-old is also the youth spokesperson for ASPCA and Subaru of America and was named one of the top five celebrity activists along with Bruce Springsteen, Yoko Ono, Ted Danson, and Edward Norton by Care To Make A Difference Foundation.
In 2010, Lou founded Kids Against Animal Cruelty (KAAC), an educational foundation for animal rights, rescue and shelter adoption he started at age 14 when he learned millions of animals are put to sleep if not adopted. Today its state chapters run by teens work to lobby against puppy mills, ban shelter gas chambers, save wild Mustangs, and preserve America’s western frontier. He continues lobbying to educate his generation on responsible pet ownership.
One of the world’s fastest-growing animal rights groups, KAAC has 50,000+ members, fans, and supporters including Alexandria Altman, Denise Richards, Joanna Krupa, Ryan Kavanaugh, Adam West, Betty White, Malese Jow, Shirley Jones, Ken Howard, Elaine Hendrix, Renee Taylor, Stephanie Levy, Natalie Rotman, Eric Lange, Kaileigh Brielle Martin, Wendon Swift, Nicole Cummins, Emily Capehart, Laci Kay, Jessica Harthcock, and Robin Harmon. KAAC partner coalitions are Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles, American Humane Association, Pet Philanthropy Circle, Subaru of America, ASPCA, Pilots N’ Paws, Humane Society of the United States, Onyx and Breezy Foundation, Mercy For Animals, and Maui Jim Sunglasses.
Lou stars in the fantasy adventure Snow Moon (2014). He appeared in Trouble With the Curve, Doughboy, A Christmas Tree Miracle, Pass The Light, VH-1 Do Something Awards, Modern Family, and other film and TV projects. He has been featured in the Washington Post, Huffington Post, ABC News, CNN, MSN.com, Breitbart.com, Miami Herald, and his photo with his rescue dogs was the number one Yahoo! Photo of the Day. His public service music video “1Life2Live” continues to raise awareness for animals at overcrowded shelters, and his pop music trio “Blonde” soon debuts “Keep The World Spinning” for saving wild horses.
When not acting and motivating fellow teens to stand up for change and animal rights, Lou spends time riding horses, longboarding, snowboarding, practicing karate, parkour, fencing, and writing music. He also manages, in between acting roles and charity work, to attend school and produce public service music videos for the animals. He lives with his family and rescue dogs in Burbank, California. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @kaac33.
Jordan: You have a remarkable resume as an activist. What prompted you to get involved in advocacy and activism?
Lou: I am fortunate to have parents who were concerned about my mark in the world as a human being so they enrolled me, at the age of three, into the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium’s Summer Youth Program. For eight years, I learned that conservation, preservation, and concerns for the environment were vital. That animals and the land they depended upon were being destroyed. It bothered me deeply that elephants and rhinos were targets, cruelly hunted and killed for their ivory and horns. Next, I volunteered for two summers at the Ohio Wildlife Center. It was there at the rehabilitation hospital that I saw cruelty to wildlife firsthand.
Coming to Los Angeles, the director of my first film, Be Good to Eddie Lee, asked if I had ever volunteered at an animal shelter. I had not. I was 14, so I volunteered at the Baldwin Park Animal Shelter. Sadly, I quickly discovered that animals were euthanized to make space for the continuous flow of animals coming in. These were family pets, crying as their owners walked away. I was heartbroken. I will never forget. I had to do something. I decided to start Kids Against Animal Cruelty (KAAC) to educate my generation about adopting shelter animals, spay/neuter, and pet responsibility.
Jordan: Tell us a little about the American Humane Association and how you have helped them on their advocacy campaigns?
Lou: American Humane Association has been protecting children, pets, and farm animals from abuse and neglect since 1877. They provide grants to local shelters and maintain a nationwide animal disaster response team, among other programs. I was extremely honored to be appointed AHA’s first National Youth Ambassador. As an actor, I am also very interested in working with AHA’s No Animals Were Harmed® Film and TV Unit based in Los Angeles, which helps ensure animals are humanely treated in movies, television shows, and commercials.
Jordan: Congratulations on your awards. Is there one you are most proud of on behalf of your animal work?
I am extremely grateful for all of my awards and the time and consideration of those that nominated me and my organization, including our KAAC state chapter presidents. Besides AHA, I also serve as youth spokesperson for Best Friends Animal Society Los Angeles, Pilots N’ Paws, Subaru of America, ASPCA, The Onyx and Breezy Foundation, and Humane Society of the United States, among others. I am especially proud of being named Pet Philanthropy Circle’s Junior Pet Hero of the Year. They have embraced Kids Against Animal Cruelty and honored me with a seat on their executive board to represent the youth voice. I believe that the education of my generation is vital in changing the tide of death for shelter animals, preserving wildlife, and ending animal cruelty for good.
Jordan: Some of our other crusaders have started charities on behalf of endangered species or as companion animal welfarists. They have to budget their time to tend to school work. How did you manage to work, get schooled, and get involved with advocacy?
Lou: The advocacy part was easy. I discovered that saving shelter animals was a click of my mouse or an app on my phone to build a global network of friends, fellow advocates, and coalition partners. I connected with many thousands and discovered that I could use social media to make a difference. KAAC worked perfectly with school and acting. For example, whether on school break or at an audition, I could check my e-mail or log onto Facebook via my phone to check up on animals in need. Also, I just booked the feature film Snow Moon, with a production company that has totally endorsed KAAC. I think that is so awesome.
Jordan: Is there one message you would like to share with our audience and your fans regarding your non-profit work?
Lou: My passion and dreams are to inspire kindness and compassion in my generation. As kids, it is our responsibility to promote proper stewardship of our planet and all of its inhabitants through awareness, conservation, and education. It is through these efforts that we can work together to make a difference for current and future generations.
Dr. Jordan Schaul is a zoologist, conservationist, journalist and animal trainer based in Los Angeles, California. For more of his posts, please visit his National Geographic Society author page. Like his public Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/jordan.schaul) or follow him on Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/jordanschaul).
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Jordan Carlton Schaul With training in wildlife ecology, conservation medicine, and comparative psychology, Dr. Schaul's contributions to Nat Geo Voices have covered a range of environmental and social topics. He draws particular attention to the plight of imperiled species highlighting issues at the juncture or nexus of sorta situ wildlife conservation and applied animal welfare. Sorta situ conservation practices are comprised of scientific management and stewardship of animal populations ex-situ (in captivity / 'in human care') and in-situ (free-ranging / 'in nature'). He also has a background in behavior management and training of companion animals and captive wildlife, as well as conservation marketing and digital publicity. Jordan has shared interviews with colleagues and public figures, as well as editorial news content. In addition, he has posted narratives describing his own work, which include the following examples: • Restoration of wood bison to the Interior of Alaska while (While Animal Curator at Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center and courtesy professor at the University of Alaska) • Rehabilitation of orphaned sloth bears exploited for tourists in South Asia (While executive consultant in-residence at the Agra Bear Rescue Center managed by Wildlife SOS) • Censusing small wild cat (e.g. ocelot and margay) populations in the montane cloud forests of Costa Rica for popular publications with 'The Cat Whisperer' Mieshelle Nagelschneider • Evaluating the impact of ecotourism on marine mammal population stability and welfare off the coast of Mexico's Sea of Cortez (With Boston University's marine science program) Jordan was a director on boards of non-profit wildlife conservation organizations serving nations in Africa, North and South America and Southeast Asia. He is also a consultant to a human-wildlife conflict mitigation organization in the Pacific Northwest. Following animal curatorships in Alaska and California, he served as a charter board member of a zoo advocacy and outreach organization and later as its executive director. Jordan was a member of the Communication and Education Commission of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (CEC-IUCN) and the Bear Specialist Group of the IUCN Species Survival Commission (BSG-SSC-IUCN). He has served on the advisory council of the National Wildlife Humane Society and in service to the Bear Taxon Advisory Group of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA Bear TAG). In addition, he was an ex officio member of the council of the International Association for Bear Research and Management.