Carrie Ann Inaba: an animal advocate

Carrie Ann Inaba, a Dancing With the Stars judge, can be tough on show contestants, but she’s a total softie when it comes to cats and other critters.

She’s best known as a judge on Dancing With the Stars, although she has also appeared in films such as Austin Powers in Goldmember, Showgirls and Flintstones II: Viva Rock Vegas. Carrie Ann Inaba tells it like it is to the dance teams, even when she has to be harsh – but her patience and love for animals is boundless.

The talented actress and dancer recently founded the Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project (CAIAP) to help cats and dogs in several different ways. “I have always wanted to build a sanctuary to give animals a safe place to live out their lives,” she explains. “Since I was a young child, this has been the dream. Starting CAIAP is all about working towards that. It will take a lot of financial support to get there, but I have faith we will.”

Shadow’s legacy

Carrie Ann’s cat, Shadow, who lived 19 years, was a major inspiration for the project, and for its predecessor Crib Cats. “Shadow passed away in September of 2011, and it broke my heart,” she says. “He was a very special part of my life. When he left, I was at such a loss. He had a challenging end to his life, and it required a lot of my love and attention. When he passed, there was a huge void.

“Since I have such a love for animals, my friend David Beebe, the creator of Petsami, an online animal entertainment network, approached me to do a digital online series. We created Crib Cats, a fun show that featured a talking cat and real life cats who needed homes. The show was quite successful, and we were able to place some of our cats in their forever homes. I realized that I could make a difference.”

Dedicated animal advocate

Even prior to Crib Cats, Carrie Ann was no stranger to animal advocacy. “I had been in the rescue world for a while, doing a campaign for PETA for animal birth control, and have hosted the Humane Society of the United States Genesis Awards. I’m also a celebrity ambassador for Best Friends Animal Society.”

After Shadow passed, Carrie Ann decided to become an animal foster parent and took in two cats, Bubble and Maile, as well as two dogs, on what was supposed to be a temporary basis.

“I failed of, course, and ended up adopting them,” Carrie Ann laughs. She also has two special needs cats, Tazzie and Squeaker. Tazzie has an esophageal feeding tube through which Carrie Ann gives him water three to four times a day. “When I first got Squeaker, they told me she was going to die in two weeks. I locked myself in a room with her and pretty much spent every moment I could with her, just giving her love. As it turns out, after two weeks we tested her again, and found out that she did not have what they thought she had. She has lived a wonderful life with me ever since.”

Saving lives

As if she isn’t already doing enough. Carrie Ann Inaba also started pledging funds to save animals in danger of euthanasia in overcrowded shelters. “I realized we could save more lives if only there was more financial support,” she says. “After learning more about the problems and teaming up with various rescues and volunteering my time, I learned where the needs were. It is my opinion that we need to educate people on the human/ animal bond and what it takes to properly care for a animal. I also saw the need for access to spay and neuter clinics in certain areas where they are not available.” CAIAP provides financial support to rescue groups and spearheads education.

Carrie Ann is very careful about choosing groups to support. “It’s important to note that I can’t donate to every organization that asks me,” she explains. “I have to vet them and make sure they do good work. In this world, sadly, there are people who pose as ‘rescue’ organizations but are actually hoarders. Some people also just take the money and don’t care for the animals. The animals suffer, and that’s what we’re here to work against. I’m building an advisory board that will help me vet organizations to be sure they’re taking good care of the animals as CAIAP grows.”

Teaching respect

Carrie Ann Inaba also wants the project to “teach the next generation about the beautiful relationship between humans and animals, how animals enrich our lives, how to responsibly care for their animals, and how to choose their animals. We will also educate on the importance of spay and neuter and prevention of animal cruelty.”

Carrie Ann also wants to improve human/human as well as human/animal relationships. “Patience, unconditional love, responsibility and loyalty are all good qualities to develop in children. I believe it was Abraham Lincoln who said, ‘I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.’ If we teach children how to respect animals’ rights to proper care, love and safety, we teach them respect for people too. What they learn about animal kindness, they also learn about human kindness.”