Jillian Barberie leafs through her mail and stops at a handwritten note carefully folded over a photograph. The popular weather, entertainment and television personality reads a few lines and breaks into a smile. It’s another update on one of the animals who received a loving home thanks to her “Adopt a Pet” segment on “Good Day, L.A.”, the Emmy Award-winning morning show on Fox 11.
Six years ago, when Jillian joined “Good Day, L.A.” as weathercaster, she convinced the producers to feature rescue animals on the show. Since then, the straight talking fashionista has helped a number of organizations find loving homes for rescued animals. “I just told the producers I was very passionate about this and it’s something we should do. We started out featuring one animal a week and then after a few months, when the phone was ringing off the hook from agencies who wanted to come on the show, I suggested we do it daily.”
Hundreds of animals later, viewers regularly drop Jillian a line to let her know how well the adoptive animals are doing. “Some of the dogs who come on the show are emaciated and in terrible condition,” explains Jillian. “People will send pictures of the new and improved versions, where the animals are twenty pounds heavier and their coats are shiny and thick and full. I love those letters!”
Jennifer of New Leash on Life, one of the rotating rescue agencies who bring animals on the “Adopt a Pet” program, believes the show plays an important role in L.A. “When one of our animals is on the show, we always get calls,” Jennifer says, “and the show creates so much public awareness about the number of homeless animals in L.A. On top of that, Jillian is great at mentioning issues on the air.”
More than just talk, Jillian walks the walk too. The vivacious journalist, who also co-hosts the national entertainment show, “Good Day Live”, as well as the reality show, “Extreme Dating”, has rescued her fair share of animals through the show. In fact, some of the six dogs and cats she adopted were scheduled for euthanasia the next day. Now they live harmoniously in Jillian’s home, even sleeping together on her bed at night. Not surprisingly, Willy, a terrier mix who joined the ranks only a few weeks ago, fit in right away. “The other day I was watching a movie and happened to look over,” says Jillian. “ Willy was laying next to one of my cats on the little animal couch, Teddy the terrier was laying with another cat on a cushion, and Samba my lab was on the floor with Lolo, my tabby. I thought ‘this is unbelievable’. But I think my rescues know that they’re rescued and I’ve tried to create this haven for them that’s filled with love.’
Jillian, 36, readily admits that her passion for animals and her desire to save them probably dates back to childhood. Born in Toronto, Ontario, she was later adopted and raised in the nearby city of Burlington. The young Jillian connected to the animals who came to live with her family and conscientiously showered them with love and attention.
“As a child, I had rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, everything. I think I related to animals because they were rescued just like I was rescued.”
As an on-air personality, Jillian is in a position to make quite a difference. In addition to the “Adopt a Pet” segment, she regularly shares animal tips and information with viewers, and promotes only designers with fur-free lines on her “Style File” fashion segments.
Jillian says she loves television but, interestingly enough, it’s a career she almost didn’t pursue. An accomplished figure skater who started the sport at the tender age of three, Jillian turned professional at age 18 and competed for three years before deciding to try her hand at broadcast journalism. She studied at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario and after graduation launched her career as the weeknight weathercaster for Canada’s Weather Network. Craving warmer weather, she moved to a station in Miami, Florida as a weathercaster and special reporter. From there, it was on to Fox 11 in Los Angeles where her popularity landed her on “Good Morning, L.A”. and eventually “Good Morning Live”, and “NFL on Fox”. Not one to be pigeon-holed, she had roles on “Beverly Hills 90210”, “Melrose Place” and “V.I.P.” along the way.
While she enjoys television, animal welfare remains her passion. Her efforts were officially recognized recently when Last Chance for Animals (LCA) presented her with their Albert Schweitzer Award. Surprised and elated, Jillian accepted the award from her colleague, “Good Day, L.A.” host Steve Edwards. “It was a huge surprise, which is amazing because I have so many friends and they’re all gossips,” Jillian, says, laughing. “That award, though, means more to me than any other accolade I could get in this town.”
Chris DeRose, founder and Executive Director of LCA, says the award is well deserved. “ Jillian is what the world needs more of. She has total empathy and she’s not afraid to speak up for the voiceless. She cares so much and is relentless in her pursuit to help animals any way she can. She’s committed to helping LCA fight the most difficult battles and she’s one person who is making a difference. I call that a personification of greatness.”
In addition to her other efforts, Jillian will work with LCA on their annual National Pet Theft Awareness Day on February 14, as well as future campaigns. She also wants to start featuring two Adopt a Pet segments per morning on the morning show instead of just one.
Chris DeRose, for one, feels fortunate to have her support. “We don’t even have to ask for her help. She’s always there. She puts herself, her career, her energy, her resources, her name on the line. . . all the time.”
For Jillian, the explanation is simple. “If you’re passionate about something, it’s not hard to do.”
Protect your animal from theft
LCA reports that almost 2 million animals are stolen each year in the U.S. alone. Many of these animals are then sold to research laboratories, dog-fighting rings, or puppy mills. The LCA offers these tips on how to keep your companions safe:
DO keep your dog indoors, especially when you’re not home. Outdoor dogs should be kept safely behind a locked gate.
DO walk your dog on a leash when not on your property
DO keep cats indoors, or in screened-in areas, on leashes or under supervision out of doors
DO provide your companion animals with collars, ID tags and licenses. Speak with your veterinarian about back-up forms of identification such as tattooing and microchipping.
DO report suspicious neighborhood activities and/or missing companion animals to the police and animal control.
DO keep companion animals safely inside your home when you are expecting repair personnel, meter readers or guests.
DO keep recent photos and written descriptions of your companion animals on hand at all times.
DO spay and neuter your companion animals. Fixed animals are less likely to stray from home.
DO educate family, friends, and neighbors about animal companion theft.
For more information, visit www.lcanimal.org.