The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization set on a lovely 2.5 acre spread in Acton, CA, USA, was founded over 16 years ago by its namesake, Linda Blair. Most people recall Ms. Blair’s Academy Award nominated role, Regan, in the movie “The Exorcist”, but few know that she is a tireless promoter of animal rights, speaking out against breed specific legislation in Los Angeles, CA and across the USA. Ms. Blair believes, “Irresponsible pet ownership is the worst problem America has and much is needed to be done in order to educate the powers that be from creating bad laws that will ultimately have a downward spiraling effect on helpless animals.” When I asked Ms. Blair if she herself actively participates in educating the public about her Foundation she said, “Absolutely. I try to participate in a variety of events, in all kinds of venues. We don’t need to keep preaching to the same crowds because they already know. It’s important to reach those beyond our walls. We talk about breed-specific legislation, dog fighting, the importance of spay and neuter programs and pet overpopulation, banning puppy mills, pet health and exercise and a variety of other topics.”
Cooperation And Collaboration
In the state of California, the holding period for animals brought to shelters is six days, “But often times it (euthanasia) happens within three,” said Ms. Blair. “Los Angeles is currently in transition after the animal rescue community came together to force change. At the Foundation we try to help the shelter system as much as we can by taking on the hard to place cases, referring people to the shelters and by educating the public.” Also, The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation collaborates with animal control agencies and their directors. “They need to know compassion, be thrifty, have a drive to educate because that’s where you are going to see the biggest outcomes, be bold and lead the force for community outreach, especially in Los Angeles,” she said. Recently the Los Angeles animal control annual budget faced drastic cuts of nearly $2 million, “This will drive the euthanasia numbers through the roof,” said Ms. Blair. To learn more you can read the Los Angeles Animal Control statistical report.
Ms. Blair’s WorldHeart Foundation works with all types of animal organizations, city and county run pounds, shelters, etc. to “try to help offset (their caseload) by taking some of the dogs when we can and helping to educate the public and do community outreach. At the end of the day we should all be working towards the same goals–to find all of these animals forever loving homes and reaching out to the community to put an end to dog fighting and pet overpopulation.” The important thing that Ms. Blair encourages is to become involved in your local community. Educate yourself to the issues and get involved through networking, volunteering and by simply spreading the word about adopting animals.
The WorldHeart Foundation is a rescue group that is successfully working to save animals on death row. “We specialize in rehabilitation both emotionally as well as physically, giving animals immediate medical care, proper nutrition, grooming and socialization training. We have a few loving foster homes where animals receive good care and can stay, sometimes up to a year, to adjust and heal any physical and emotional wounds. And it always takes time to find the perfect loving home. There is a vast amount of networking that goes on to save the lives of animals in the shelter. There are an amazing group of city/county volunteers who roam the kennels, put on mobile adoption events and spend hours upon hours with the dogs that come into the shelters. Often times these amazing volunteers, along with the help of some of the shelter employees, will put together photos, videos, emails, stories, etc., about some of the dogs that have touched their hearts. It’s really incredible how many of these “pleas” you see–we get hundreds every week. We wish we could save them all but it’s just not possible. We will either see one of these emails or some of our volunteers will let us know about dogs in need as many also volunteer for these shelters. When we have space, we’ll call and talk to kennel supervisors at the shelter, but, unfortunately, given this economy we’ve been full for a while.” said Ms. Blair.
Ms. Blair and her group of volunteers give back to the veterinarians, and other organizations, that help her in her mission to save animals. “We have a few vets in the area that will hold pet fairs, spay/neuter clinics, micro-chipping/vaccine clinics. We try to have a presence at these events to support the vets with these causes. Oftentimes people will just think the vets are trying to make money and fail to see the importance of the services they provide. Vaccines keep your puppy from catching parvo, spay/neuter helps pet overpopulation, micro-chipping helps bring lost dogs home, etc. Also,” said Ms. Blair, “there are a lot of great spay and neuter programs out there. We are big fans of the Angel Dogs Foundation.”
Foster Homes And Volunteers Are Crucial
As you can see, Ms. Blair’s Foundation lovingly cares for, frequently physically and spiritually rehabilitating back to health, the animals they rescue. I asked Ms. Blair to describe the importance of the rehabilitation programs that she has put together at her WorldHeart Foundation. “All of our volunteers work with all of the dogs to create social, well adjusted, balanced animals. We love working with some of the local training colleges to help the students and also help the dogs.” One of the benefits of building a quality rehabilitation program is that it helps create an environment where the animals are more likely to be placed into a foster care home. “We LOVE foster homes, there are never enough!” Many foster care families that work with the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation are at the maximum number of pets allowed in their home, “It’s tough finding foster homes. Though we did just read an article in the last day or so that there is a city meeting to potentially raise the limit of animals you can have.” If you live in the Los Angeles area and have room in your heart and your home for a foster animal, please consider contacting the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation.
Ms. Blair’s Foundation is a 100% volunteer-based, including writing thank-you cards, web design, adoption promotions, education, animal placement coordination, and their Board. “We absolutely could not function without our volunteers,” said Ms. Blair. The volunteers that give their time to WorldHeart are invaluable and each is dedicated to the Foundation’s mission of rescue, rehabilitation, spay/neuter, breed specific legislation, stopping dog fighting and providing community outreach in order to save dogs, one at a time. “Over the next three years our volunteer base hopes to have more community involvement, more involvement with the Los Angeles shelter system expanding on how we can help each other, hoping the new general manager will be willing to partner with rescues to help reach out to the community and spread the important messages.” said Ms. Blair.
When I asked Ms. Blair to tell me about some of the stories of the animals that stick out in her memory, she became very quiet, and after a while said, “We rescue dogs, mostly pit bulls but will help any dog in need. A few of our dogs came from our rescue mission after Hurricane Katrina–Elroy, Holly and Happy. Elroy is a shy guy and you just have to wonder what he went through. How horrible his experience was. He’ll be with me for life as adjusting to anything else would be just too hard. He loves hanging out with the 32-year-old horse Coco. We have so many wonderful dogs and have stories that run from being tossed out on the highway as with our dog Freeway, to being left behind in a foreclosed house as with Leo and Henry, to being saved from death row as is the case with many of the dogs we have.”
Making Matches For Second Chances
Ms. Blair loves the animals at her Foundation and considers them her own, so their adoption process has been developed toward the best interest of the dogs. “First you submit an application that is pre-screened. If it appears we have a dog matching your lifestyle we will invite you to the foundation or to an adoption event to meet the dog, if things go well we then set up a home check, if all checks out we then deliver the dog. We believe in matchmaking–finding the perfect fit for both the person and the dog. Sometimes we don’t have the dog someone is looking for but we’ll comb through the shelters and our rescues partners to find them the perfect fit. There are rescues like ours all over the country, we encourage your readers to get involved through volunteering, fostering, adopting–it’s life changing!”
On behalf of The Anipal Times, I’d like to thank Linda Blair and her group of devoted volunteers who help save the lives of animals on a daily basis. They provide animals on death row a lifeline. The Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and relies 100% on donations. To learn more about the Linda Blair WorldHeart Foundation and potentially find a pet to adopt or volunteer your time, please visit their website.
Originally published in Anipal Times: MattieDog’s October, 2011, Rescue Me column.