How Celebrity Adoptions Help Encourage Animal Rescue · The Wildest

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These Major Celebrities Have Rescued Dogs—Now So Many More Pets Are Getting Adopted

From hosting fundraisers to posting about their adopted pets, stars can have a huge impact on animal-rescue efforts.

by Nisha Gopalan
March 20, 2024
Jennifer Anniston and her adopted puppy dog.
Photo Courtesy of @ jenniferaniston

In the recent season of And Just Like That… (aka the rebooted Sex and the City series), animal-lover Che Diaz brings a rescued kitten to the home of their friend Carrie Bradshaw (played by Sarah Jessica Parker), in hopes she’ll adopt it. (Spoiler alert: She does.) And in the happy ending we were all looking for, Parker ultimately adopted the cat, named Lotus, in real life, too. 

“You could tell from the very beginning that Sarah had an instant attraction to this particular kitten. The bond between them was very, very strong,” says Dorothy Berloni. She and her husband, Bill (who’s known Parker since her childhood days starring in Annie on Broadway) run Theatrical Animals, a company that humanely trains animals for television and stage productions, among them And Just Like That…

“Sarah has always been a cat person. Her family loves cats, and she actually has two other adopted cats at her home,” Dorothy says. The couple, who were also fostering Lotus for the Connecticut Humane Society, even advised Parker on how to introduce Lotus to her two new siblings, Rémy and Smila.

How rescues benefit from high-profile attention

“It was definitely a high-profile case for us. As soon as Sarah had announced it, we had a lot of people coming to our website, to our Instagram and Facebook,” says Kathryn Schubert, marketing and communications manager at the Connecticut Humane Society, from where Parker adopted Lotus. “It was clear that there were people coming in because of that.” After her post, all 50-some animals the organization had been housing at the time were adopted.

Sasha Abelson, founder of Love Leo Rescue (the name is an homage to her late Pit Bull) got her first jolt of celeb fervor after introducing beauty-influencer Desi Perkins to her dog, Charlie, who soon became the newest star of her Instagram.

“I honestly didn’t know who she was,” Abelson says. The initial post jump-started awareness for her business. “Then the next morning, I woke up and had this big number of followers. To this day, a lot of our followers are young females because of those posts.”

The Santa Monica-based rescue got another huge boost, thanks to Hilary Duff. “That was our big one. She actually filled out the adoption application herself,” Abelson says. “I brought her some little puppies from Mexico that we rescued, and she ended up adopting a little black Pug [named Mojito].” 

It earned Love Leo thousands of new followers. “People want to be associated with a rescue that has a celebrity adopter,” she explains. “It adds legitimacy to the organization.”

Abelson has also adopted dogs to several other stars, including Jonah Hill, who has a Pit Bull named Fig); Olivia Munn, who’s mom to Frankie, a Jack Russell Terrier mix; and Lily Collins, who adopted Redford, a Pug / Terrier). She explains that in addition to spreading awareness, high-profile adopters can spur donations to her canine nonprofit. Last year, Duff even hosted their December fundraiser, which brought in about $75,000.

“She’s, like, no drama, no ego,” Abelson says, admiringly. “She’s just a good human being who wants to do nice things for the world.”

A star-studded volunteer list

It turns out there are more of those unicorns — people who are so grateful to a shelter that they want to give back — than you’d think. For instance, Wagmor Pets adopted a puppy mix named Turbo to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s family. After that, his daughter, an avowed dog lover who wants to start her own rescue one day, began volunteering for them.

“One of the people who hasn’t adopted from us, but posts for us all the time, is Kristen Bell. She’s amazing,” says Melissa Bacelar, Wagmor’s founder. “She’ll come in here with her kids and volunteer. She’s adopted dogs to other people for us. Right before Christmas, she paid adoption fees for five adopters. But she was like, ‘Only adult dogs, the dogs that have been here for a while.’ Like, she had good rules!”

Wagmor began as a doggie hotel and spa and is now a nonprofit. It stands out as one of the most high-profile, celeb-friendly rescues out there. Bacelar chalks this up to their location: in Studio City, close to a lot of television sound stages.

“For us, this literally changed everything,” she says. “Because of our location, we absolutely have celebrities walk in. Sarah Hyland looked in the window and found her dog. Miley Cyrus found her dog with Liam Hemsworth, because she saw the dog in the window. Ariana Grande and Mac Miller were eating sushi next to us and saw a puppy in the window and adopted it.”

The power of A-list word of mouth

When these new pet parents decide to share their new additions with the social-media world, the effect is immediate. To avoid being invasive, Bacelar generally leaves it up to the star — such as Jennifer Aniston, who got her Labrador, Lord Chesterfield from Wagmor — to promote the adoption themselves.

“When Jennifer adopted, she said, ‘Listen, I will post about this eventually, but just not yet.’ One day, I was laying in bed, and all of a sudden I heard my Instagram notifications going crazy.” Aniston had posted about Lord Chesterfield. “In less than 24 hours, I gained, like, 20,000 followers. So yes, the impact of celebrities is real.”

Appealing to elite circles also comes with the advantageous cascading effect of famous folks directing their peers or close friends to your rescue. Ellen DeGeneres adopted her dog Wallis after hearing about Wagmor from Sandra Bullock, who got her pooch, Sweetie, from the same rescue.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen adopted Petey after hearing about the organization from Ellen. And Kris Jenner was inspired to get Bridgette after seeing a social post from Teigen. (Interestingly, all the above dogs are Poodles. Despite claims to the contrary, Bacelar states that each pup she adopts out is a rescue.)

“It’s not even just celebrities,” Bacelar adds. “It’s the behind-the-scenes people, too: the camera people, the directors, the producers, the writers…” To that end, makeup artists for both Maya Rudolph and Jennifer Aniston, respectively, adopted from Wagmor after the actresses touted the rescue. 

The real reward: a chance at new life

While the six degrees of celebrity adoptions can be alluring, the bottom line is that they’re bringing attention, and in some cases more funds, to causes that help animals in need. Remember The Rock’s family dog, Turbo? Before the pup’s brush with fame, Turbo was close to being euthanized. The fact that the privileged, who expect the best of everything, would be proud to adopt a pet does wonders for public perception.

“Celebrities can present a dog in a different light and that sad little puppy becomes this cute, adorable little puppy,” Abelson points out. ”It really helps raise awareness that these dogs are not broken. They’re rescued for a reason. But they’re also wonderful, adoptable dogs that are worthy of these incredible lives.”

nisha gopalan illustration

Nisha Gopalan

Nisha Gopalan has been a writer/editor for The New York Times, New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, and NYLON magazines. She currently resides in Los Angeles.

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