Former WWE Diva, AJ Brooks, has a soft heart for dogs. Here’s what she’s doing to make a difference.
If you’re a wrestling fan, you’ll be familiar with former World Wrestling Entertainment Diva, AJ Brooks. Known as AJ Lee in the ring, the New Jersey native is known not only for her wit, outspoken nature and support of “nerd culture”, but also her passion for life. Perhaps that’s why she continues to earn new fans and social media followers (over 2.2 million on Twitter alone), especially younger ones who identify with her energy and unique sense of style. And that’s not all – AJ Brooks is also passionate about animals, especially dogs, and she’s not shy about doing what it takes to help canines in need.
“We didn’t have much growing up, but my dad had such a bleeding heart and would take in dogs all the time if he saw stays in the street,” says AJ. “We had a lot of pit bulls in our neighborhood and they would constantly get shoved around to different homes. My dad would take them in and keep them until he could find somebody to adopt them. If we could do that when we didn’t have anything, and if we could share what little we had, I felt that everyone should find a way to help.”
AJ Brooks started by volunteering at shelters. It wasn’t always easy, given her career as a traveling performer, but she made time for it. “To me, it was doing what I could,” she says. She also started using her social media presence to support animal adoption. “If I see dogs that are listed at the shelter, I’ll re-Tweet them.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, AJ’s social media voice got the attention of the ASPCA. “Their own social media team connected with me, and we came up with an anti-dogfighting campaign,” she explains, adding that the campaign pushed for harsher sentences for those involved in the “sport”. “We put my face on it, told people to use the hashtag #GetToughonDogFighting, Tweet it out and get people to sign a petition.
“That campaign came full circle a few months ago, and the United States Sentencing Commission actually passed what we were petitioning for,” AJ says. “It was the highest number of supporters they’ve ever had for any issue brought into the USSC. We got 50,000 signatures to raise sentencing guidelines for dogfighting. Before that, dogfighting was treated like a gambling offense – only six to 12 months, or even probation. Now, 21 to 30 months is the base guideline for sentencing.”
#GetToughondogfighting was AJ’s first high-profile collaboration with the ASPCA, but it’s not the last. Since she retired from wrestling in April of 2015, she has been involved with the ASPCA year-round. Their most recent project, #nomoreballs, is an effort to educate people on the importance of spaying and neutering to help prevent the overpopulation of dogs.
“I’ve heard that every home would need to have 16 dogs for there to be no more homeless dogs…that’s how overpopulated they are,” she says. “It’s hard for me when people want to go to a breeder or pet store, because there are so many amazing dogs in shelters. But many people think their dogs have some sort of sexual identity. They think the males are going to be less ‘manly’ or ‘tough’ if they don’t have balls. I saw a lot of that growing up. Or they want to keep the lineage of their dogs going, not realizing that when they have litters, they’re going to have nine or so puppies to find homes for, and a lot of them are going to end up on the street.”
AJ Brooks adds there are a plethora of other reasons why people should consider spaying and neutering. “It can prevent uterine infection, breast cancer, prostate problems, and testicular cancer. It also makes dogs calmer and curbs aggressive behavior. If you love your dog, you’re giving him a better shot at a longer, healthier, happier life if he is spayed or neutered.”
A rescue “mom” herself, AJ’s current dog is an adorable mutt named Larry Talbot, adopted from PAWS Chicago, that city’s largest no-kill shelter. Wanting to give back to the shelter for bringing Larry into her life, she collaborated with Beautiful Disaster Clothing to create a line that would benefit PAWS Chicago. Proceeds from sales of the edgy tees and tanks, all featuring an image of Larry, go to saving more animal lives.
While the specific messaging might change, AJ’s overall mission remains the same: to encourage as many people as possible to open their hearts to animals.
“I think there’s such a connection between having to care for an animal and becoming an empathetic human,” she says. “At a young age, I had to walk my dog, feed him and bathe him, and it makes you a more responsible person. I think it’s so important for people to realize from a young age that you can help a creature that needs helping. I could have been a harder person; I could have looked at the world and thought there was only bad in it. But having something to care for that was so pure and loving really opened my heart and mind.”
Visit AJ’s website at www.aj-brooks.com.