No Funny Business in Animal Rescue: Interview with Comedian Elayne Boosler
By Jordan Schaul | National Geographic | November 15, 2012
Contributing Editor Dr. Jordan Schaul and legendary animal activists—the Barbi Twins—interview funny lady Elayne Boosler about her more serious interest in animal rescue.
Elayne Boosler initially began rescue work with Boxer Rescue of Los Angeles in the Mid 90s. She eventually joined the organization’s Board of Directors. More recently, Elayne founded her own animal rescue and advocacy organization—Tails of Joy.
I first met the celebrity animal activist at a function for Wildlife SOS in Santa Monica. The frequent contributor to the Huffington Post is an ardent supporter of companion animal and wildlife causes and writes about animal welfare advocacy in her column. The Barbi Twins recently sat down with the famous comedian to discuss the plight of companion pets.
Barbi Twins: When did you make animal rescue a part of your life?
Elayne: I was always in love with all animals, and donated to animal causes my whole life. My joke answer about when I became a rescuer is: “When I didn’t become a movie star, I did what everybody does; gain fifty pounds and start saving dogs”. But the truth is, when my first “heart” dog died, I started volunteering, got hooked, and after learning the ropes for six years, founded my Tails of Joy non-profit in 2001.
Barbi Twins: What organizations do you support and can you tell us a bit about your own organization and how it was started?
Elayne: My Tails of Joy supports the smallest, neediest rescues across the country and beyond, on a most needed basis as money comes in. I like to say we launder money; the bank account is always at zero. If a dollar comes in, a dollar goes out. We are all volunteers, and I underwrite our expenses, so every penny donated finds its way to save a dog, cat, rat, bunny, elephant, bear, primate, etc. I find the smallest organizations get the most bang for the buck. Three elderly ladies saving cats in Ohio save more lives than the entire HSUS. If you visit our website you can see the entire list of rescues in different cities we have helped. They do amazing, life-saving work, but are too small to have fundraising infrastructure. That’s where we come in.
Barbi Twins: During Hurricane Sandy, many pets were lost, killed, and/or harmed because people were unprepared. What do you suggest as a disaster plan for pet owners?
Elayne: Everyone needs a plan. The saddest cases we get, and they are never-ending, are pets of elderly people who have died. Amazingly, people seem to be in denial, and almost no one plans for his/her pet’s existence after death. A well-loved dog or cat is suddenly tossed into the outside world. These people often die leaving a lot of money to family, yet the family not only throws the pet away, but refuses to fund any medical, or any other small needs, for these animals. Put your pets in your will. Don’t take your family’s word for it that they will care for your pet after your death. Make plans in writing, have an executor that isn’t family. Leave a bank account to be used for your animal’s upkeep after your death. Nothing huge, just enough to make sure your pet will get the medical care he/she will need, and upkeep. More people would foster and adopt if it weren’t a financial burden in these hard times. I could tell you a thousand stories of abandoned pets whose deceased owners thought were going to go to their children. Not.
Barbi Twins: How have animals changed your life?
Elayne: Animals give life deep meaning. I always say if you’re not covered in dog hair your life is empty. Interviews with the top CEOs in America showed 90% attributed their success in life to having a dog as a child. You can see why. I wish more parents understood this.
Barbi Twins: What is the funniest animal joke you have used in a sketch?
Elayne: This past Saturday I was playing in Scottsdale, and there was a huge service dog in the front row. He was being trained in seizure detecting, so of course, they brought him to a comedy show. His name was “Oshe”. I asked, “How is it spelled?” Three women started spelling it all different ways and arguing. I said from the stage, “Wait. How does he spell it?”
Barbi Twins: What other celebrity friends do you know that are as hands-on as you—not just supporting animal charities through an endorsement?
Elayne: Susan Olsen really walks the walk. Tony LaRussa and I have done lots of rescue work together, his whole life is baseball and rescue. Celebrities who are always there for fundraising, and believe me, it’s not a red carpet thing so they really have to care, are Bernadette Peters, James Cromwell, Pierce Brosnan and his wife Keely Shaye Smith, Jo Anne Worley who now runs Actors and Others for Animals, Doris Day forever, and of course, you both are the most dedicated rescuers/ activists I know. Every celebrity who touts veganism, like Alicia Silverstone, is helping every time they speak about it.
Barbi Twins: How many pets do you own? Do you have any good rescue stories?
Elayne: After my last three big dogs died two years ago, I started fostering at home again. I like the big dogs; American Bulldogs, Pitties, Shar –Pei’s, mixes, dogs who have had awful lives but are still full of life and love. They sleep in our bed, I work with them for months and find them the wonderful homes they deserve. I love the seniors the most. They are just amazing creatures; making it this far, trained, move-in ready, loving, grateful, smart, and wonderful. Rescue stories? My upcoming book “Elayne Boosler’s Tails of Joy” will be the funniest, most uplifting, and amazing rescue stories you’d want to know.
Barbi Twins: If you were to describe yourself as an animal, what animal would you pick?
Elayne: A comedian.
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MEET THE AUTHOR
Jordan Carlton SchaulWith 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 (As 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 (As 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.