Congratulations to Doris Muller, IDA’s November 2010 Guardian Award Winner

Doris Muller is a rescuer and guardian of animals, and cofounder of Peoria Voices for Animals. Her home is located in West Peoria, Illinois and is essentially a shelter and foster home for abandoned dogs, cats, rabbits, and injured or orphaned pigeons, robins, and anyone else in need. She has personally rescued, fostered, nursed to health, and found loving guardians for countless animals.

Pouncer was one of her rescues. Although Doris is retired and not a financially wealthy person, when she found Pouncer wandering the streets as a young kitten and suffering from a serious leg injury, she didn't hesitate to take him to the vet and pay for the surgery needed to heal his leg. This has been the case, time and again, because Doris freely gives her resources, time, and money to provide the medical care, appropriate shelter, nutritious food, love, and affection to animals in need.

In fact, because she's well aware of the sad state of commercially produced pet food, she cooks for all her animal companions to ensure they're getting the healthiest possible food. Thanks to a friend who procures items that would have otherwise been discarded, Doris is able to feed her companion animals without financially supporting the animal agriculture industry. And even though cooking for five dogs, four cats, and a rabbit - plus other foster animals and rescued birds or other wildlife - can be quite time consuming, Doris does it with love because she is compelled to do what is best for the animals in her care rather than what is quickest and easiest for her.

When Doris isn't busy with the fostering and rescuing part of her advocacy for animals, she somehow finds the time to be an integral, very active part of her community’s animal rights group. She leaflets, attends demos promoting veganism, protests animal-abusing businesses and events, creates professional displays for tabling events, organizes and maintains a stock of animal rights literature, whips up delicious dishes for vegan potlucks, and spends hours baking vegan desserts for food give-aways.

When informed about receiving the award, Doris reacted with these kind words:

"I feel so honored and so humble. In the grand scheme of animal needs, I do so little. That's why I love this quote by Mother Theresa, "We can't do great things, we can only do small things with great love." It speaks of the common sparrows and starlings amid the cardinals and the eagles. And it reminds me that everyone is capable of doing something worthy."

We thank Doris for being a wonderful guardian to all the needy animals who cross her path and a shining example of compassion in action.

Congratulations to Yolanda Morris, IDA's Guardian Award Winner

Yolanda was blessed with parents who had a soft spot in their hearts for animals. At the age of five, when she invited a wayward cat into her garage, making the feline a bed and giving her food, Yolanda’s parents didn’t deter her. When this kitty gave birth to two kittens soon thereafter they helped care for the feline family and found the kittens homes with close family and friends. At that time no one in her family was aware of the plight or sheer volume of homeless animals.

It wasn't until 20 years later that she entered into the world of animal sheltering and had her eyes opened to the great need for animal protection; and it was there that she found her place in the world. For over ten years she worked with private rescues, animal hoarders, large scale animal shelters, animal disaster response teams and countless dedicated people, together trying to save one life at a time…and then another, and another after that.

Over the years she continually thought about the root cause of why there were so many dogs and cats being relinquished to shelters, and often put to death. Working within animal shelters and rescues she saw the day to day work to care and give the best chance at a new life for every dog and cat coming through the doors. Needing a solution to this ongoing problem, she co-founded Pawsitive Alliance in 2005 with Andrea Logan, a fellow animal rescue veteran.

Pawsitive Alliance's mission is to help end the killing of adoptable dogs and cats in Washington State by increasing adoptions, supporting spay and neuter programs, and improving pet retention. Their focus is to eliminate animals being relinquished to shelters because of unplanned litters or behavior problems as well as increase the numbers of animals leaving shelters alive through their three fold approach of spay/neuter, adoption, and education. At their large scale adoption events, where multiple animal shelters and rescues are present with their adoptable animals, hundreds of prospective adopters excitedly wait in line to have their chance at meeting their new best friend. As the new animal guardians leave with their no longer homeless dog or cat, they often stop to share what the adoption means to them. "It is a reminder to me that we are in this work not only to save animals' lives but we're also saving many human lives as well," she said.

Yolanda shares her home with two rescue dogs - Leah and Lucas. She says, "I saved their lives but they have also forever changed my life for the better." Thank you Yolanda for being an outstanding Animal Guardian and being a partner in the protection of homeless animals.

The Guardian in your life can be next! Do you know someone who’s compassion to animals exemplifies our Guardian Campaign? Someone who's kindness deserves to be recognized? Perhaps there is a four-legged friend who knows their rescuer is the best Guardian ever! Nominate them for a Guardian Award. Just send us a little information on why they should be honored with this award to and they may be featured in our next e-news!

IDA's January 2010 Guardian Award Recipient - Bill DeVasher

In Defense of Animals’ Guardian Award recognizes individuals whose care and compassion toward other species is exemplified in the way they live their lives. During Guardian Month, we would like to offer a series of Guardian Awards. Our first goes to Bill DeVasher of Wellesley, Massachusetts, an animal guardian who for the past 25 years has been a savior to a particular species imperiled by the civilization around it.

Driving down busy streets as part of our fast-paced world, many of us are not aware of the turtles who often traverse these roads as well, but Bill DeVasher is always on the lookout, ready to protect these majestic animals from the speeding traffic they must negotiate.

In his life outside Boston, Bill frequently sees these slow-paced sentient friends attempting to cross a busy road in order to reach wetlands, their instinctual locales in which they lay their eggs. These long-living animals, the symbol of Mother Earth for Native Americans, have long fascinated Bill, who cared for box turtles as a boy in Kansas. For more than two decades, Bill has watched for turtles crossing his local roads, saving dozens of lives.

Once, jumping from his car where the Mass TurnPike meets Route 128 to save a turtle who had made it to the middle of the intersection, Bill tripped and fell right on top of the turtle. Prostrate in oncoming traffic, Bill managed not only to recover, but to scoop up the unharmed turtle and carry it to the river it was attempting to reach.

For this dedication to another species, and for his demonstration of humanity, Bill DeVasher exemplifies the meaning of IDA's Guardian Award. We are proud to honor him with our Guardian Award. Congratulations Bill!

The Guardian in your life can be next! Do you know someone who’s compassion to animals exemplifies our Guardian Campaign? Someone who's kindness deserves to be recognized? Perhaps there is a four-legged friend who knows their rescuer is the best Guardian ever! Nominate them for a Guardian Award. Just send us a little information on why they should be honored with this award to and they may be featured in our next e-news!

IDA's January 2009 Guardian Superstar - Nan Bader

Survival story: Bea receives a second chance at life.

In the winter of 2007, Nan Bader of Fresno saw a small brown dog foraging for food in the gutter near an elementary school. When she stopped to investigate, the dog hobbled away, onto the schoolyard and into a crevice between two mobile classrooms.

Nan noticed that the little dog was emaciated and limping badly. The dog eventually emerged from the crevice but would not come to Nan. It was very cold, and she was concerned about the dog’s condition; so every day she visited the school, putting food out and trying to encourage the dog to trust her.

After three days, Nan realized she’d have to set a humane trap; so she borrowed one from H.O.P.E. Animal Foundation. At dusk on Dec. 30, Nan and a friend set the trap with meat inside, and left it for an hour. When she returned, the little dog was inside, meat eaten.

The dog appeared to be a Chihuahua and was fearful but not aggressive. Hearts trembling, they carried the trap to the car.

When they got home, they released her from the trap into a soft dog bed. Nan let her sniff her fingers, then gave her a little food and water. She supported her hindquarters, so she wouldn’t topple over.

She was extremely thin, every bone showing, and she suspected that her rear legs were broken. She seemed OK with Nan’s touch, so she took her in her arms and held her for the first time. She named her Beatrix, or Bea, for short.

The next day she took Bea to her veterinarian, who examined her and x-rayed her back legs. Diagnosis: fractures of both her legs and separated hip, probably due to having been hit by a car.

On Jan. 2, her bones were set and pins put in both legs, and she came home.

She took medications to avoid infection and pain, and made progress every day.

Today, seven months later, Bea runs like the wind, with no limp, as if to shout “I have legs! I have legs!”

Bea enjoys her two terrier siblings, sleeps next to Nan every night, eats well, is very healthy, smart, playful, confident, happy to be alive, and very loving.

Nan rescued Bea; but Bea rescued Nan as well. In this often out-of-control world, it’s satisfying to be able to do good for even one individual. Beatrix means “bringer of gladness; and little Bea is true to her name.

IDA's June 2008 Guardian of the Month - Joan Phillips

Director of Animal Lovers League helps Long Island's cats and dogs

Joan Phillips is the Director and co-founder of the Animal Lovers League (ALL) in Glen Cove, New York, the first and only privatized municipal shelter in populous Nassau County. She and her colleagues first formed ALL in response to the horrific conditions at the Glen Cove shelter, which suffered a 98% euthanasia rate. For the last decade, ALL has blazed new paths by providing animals with home-like conditions while they wait for that special guardian to adopt them.

Through ALL, Phillips has been able to extend that effort to Long Island's municipal shelters with education and training on providing animals with a high quality of life. She also focuses on the plight of feral and abandoned cats with the aim of making sure every shelter has the resources for no or low-cost spay and neuter services. She specializes in educating shelter staff in the humane handling of felines at intake to reduce their stress and ensure that fearful behavior is not misinterpreted as aggression, which can cause staff to dismiss a cat as unadoptable.

At the ALL shelter, stress reduction is a primary concern, so dogs have play groups in outside enclosures, and adult cats live communally, enjoying an environment enriched by cozy cubbies, ramps and shelving that lets them climb to their hearts' desire. Phillips got the idea for these elevated structures from her home, which has an enclosed screen patio so the family's eleven special needs cats and bottle-fed orphans can enjoy the breeze and views without the temptation of hunting birds. She also shares the house with a husband and daughter who share her passion for animals and making a better world for them, but says "My husband does groan when I come home with yet another animal in need of special care, but he cares as deeply as I do, and works side-by-side with me to get our charges well and on the way to forever homes."

Also a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has a penchant for wild babies in need of care until they can return to their natural habitats, Phillips has other interests as well. "Organic gardening is my natural tranquillizer," she says. "Our yard has been created and certified as a 'Wildlife Habitat,' where it is a joy to plant or read a book and listen to the birds sing."

In the word "guardian," Phillips sees "a much kinder and more familial feeling of the relationship we share with our beloved friends," and strives to bring that spirit to her work with guardians and prospective guardians who come to the shelter. As an exemplary guardian, IDA honored Phillips at our 6th Annual Companion Animal Guardian Awards ceremony in New York City in May, which recognizes individuals and organizations from the east coast who have made a significant impact on reducing animal suffering and saving animal lives. We are pleased to honor her again in June as our Guardian of the Month.

IDA's March 2008 Guardian of the Month - Claudia Kawczynska

Co-founder and Editor of The Bark magazine helps dogs and guardians find a new voice

In 1997, when The Bark magazine was just a newborn pup, Editor-in-Chief Claudia Kawczynska and her husband Cameron Woo produced 1,000 copies of the eight-page, black-and-white newsletter out of their garage in Berkeley, Calif. At first, Kawczynska and Woo, the magazine's designer, conceived of The Bark as merely a medium for persuading the community to turn 17 of Cesar Chavez Park's 90 acres into an off-leash dog area, an effort that was ultimately successful. But today, The Bark is an award-winning, internationally-acclaimed, 120-page full-color magazine that reaches over 250,000 readers per issue.

It's a true start-up success story in the competitive world of magazine publishing, where many new titles are born, but few last so long or have such a significant impact as The Bark. The key to their success is that Kawczynska and Woo produce a work of art every two months that is unlike any other niche magazine on the market. The Bark stands out on the rack among such commercial competitors as Dog Fancy and Dog World not only because of the stellar writing and eye-popping graphics, but because they treat dogs as individuals, and also take strong stands on social and political issues that that affect canine companions.

Even before Kawczynska first heard about IDA's Guardian Campaign in 2001, she managed to avoid using the term "owner" in The Bark, substituting phrases such as "dog lover," "dog companion," or even "dog person" in its stead. "It's a sign of respect," says Kawczynska. "Women, for example, used to be referred to as 'Miss' or 'Mrs.' instead of 'Ms.' which defined half the human race mainly by their marital status. Having grown up with that and seeing language evolve, I can appreciate the power this change had on my life and all women's lives." Consequently, The Bark makes "guardian" language an official part of their editorial policy for writers, who can choose to use Kawczynska's alternate wordings, as well.

Praise for The Bark magazine:

"The New Yorker for dog lovers."
— The New York Times

"A must read!"
— Oprah Winfrey

The Bark also distinguishes itself by advocating for animals in society -- from promoting progressive spay/neuter laws to encouraging readers to adopt or rescue animals instead of buying them. In stark contrast to other mainstream dog publications, they do not accept ads from breeders because, as Kawczynska maintains, "it is immoral to purchase animals while so many millions of wonderful companions languish in shelters." On top of that, the articles, essays, stories, poems, photos, illustrations, and other works featured in The Bark's pages are contributed by some of the world's most renowned contemporary authors and artists (who also happen to be dog guardians). Kawczynska encourages them to write about canines in new, more personal ways that really make readers think differently.

"We've published many articles on the canine mind and explored dogs' emotional experience," Kawczynska points out, "from their capacity for affection and pain to what they dream about. The Bark celebrates the incredible bond between humans and canines, and promotes an attitude of respect which recognizes them as individuals -- not as property, not as children, and not as surrogates for us. We hope this is helping to shape people's relationships with their dogs, and improve our society's treatment of animal companions."

Kawczynska and Woo perceived the beginnings of this trend just before they started publishing The Bark -- when the couple adopted Nell, a feisty border collie mix who inspired the magazine's motto, "Dog is my co-pilot." It was then that they increasingly started noticing dogs popping up in media and art, and people treating canines more as members of the family than mere family "pets." That change is reflected in a companion animal products and service industry that today is worth more than $32 billion a year.

Kawczynska believes dogs are a unique species because "they represent to humans all other types of non-human beings, bridging our awareness to the wider natural world and increasing our appreciation for different types of consciousness. By empathizing with dogs, we learn to see the world through someone else's eyes." Kawczynska and Woo have shared this canine-centric vision through The Bark, and their books Dog Is My Co-Pilot: Great Writers on the World's Oldest Friendship and Howl: A Collection of the Best Contemporary Dog Wit. Their third book, about dogs who smile, is currently in the works.

Today, Kawczynska and Woo share their lives with two dogs and three cats. After Nell died from cancer, the couple adopted a young puppy named Lola to help 15-year-old Lenny get over the grief of losing his lifelong companion. Fourteen-month-old Lola is a sporting breed, which, Kawczynska says, makes her much different from any of the other dogs she's lived with. "We're busy training her, and trying to find a fulfilling job for her to do. She, in turn, is teaching us about the amazing abilities and unique needs of working dogs."

IDA is proud to honor Claudia Kawczynska as our Guardian of the Month for March 2008, and hope we will turn some new readers on to The Bark, an extraordinary literary and artistic achievement that is both highly informative and pleasurable to read. Hopefully, their success will also inspire other budding publishers to start their own animal-themed 'zines!

What You Can Do:

  • Subscribe to The Bark today, and they will donate half of your $18 annual subscription fee to IDA!
  • Also enter your happy canine friend in The Bark's "smiling dogs" contest by emailing a funny and fantastic photo to .

IDA's Guardian of the Month for February 2008 - Tammy Grimes

Founder of Dogs Deserve Better seeks to break the chains of suffering

Tammy Grimes

It all started with a dog named Worthless. This is actually what his "owners" called him -- and therefore, not surprisingly, how they treated him. The black lab mix was tied by his neck, day after day, to the end of a chain in their yard in Tipton, Penn., a victim of neglect and loneliness. For four years, Tammy Grimes visited Worthless in secret, giving him affection and treats, until she was discovered and forbidden to see him ever again.

But Grimes remained haunted by her compassion for the helpless pooch, and spent two heartbreaking years driving by his yard every day, longing to help him. Knowing that he was suffering inspired her to fulfill her life's mission: ending the common but harmful practice of tethering dogs to a few square feet of ground for their entire lives. Though by nature averse to confrontation, Grimes knew it was the only way she could make a difference for chained dogs, so she founded Dogs Deserve Better in 2002.

Grimes calls chained and penned dogs "the forgotten cause" because their pain is so often overlooked in a world where millions of dogs are still suffering and dying in laboratory experiments, illegal fighting rings, and in shelters due to overbreeding. But their suffering is nonetheless real. Dogs need affection and plenty of exercise to be happy and healthy, but living on the end of a chain typically means they don't get nearly enough of either, leaving them frustrated, neurotic, and often dangerous to people (especially children) and other animals. Left on for a long enough stretch, a tether can even become embedded underneath the skin of a dog's neck, causing an extremely painful and possibly life-threatening infection.

There are five states and numerous communities where laws have been passed to limit the amount of time per day that dogs can be kept tethered, and Tammy Grimes has been instrumental in the passage of many of them. Yet in most places in the other 45 states, people can legally keep their dogs chained for as long as they want, and all too often do. Grimes is one of the leaders in a relatively recent movement to redress this problem and change people's habits.

As such, she has saved many dogs from the fate of lifelong confinement, sometimes putting her own freedom on the line in the process. In one famous case, Grimes and her team responded to neighbors' calls about a dog who appeared dead when they arrived on the scene. Severely undernourished with his coat bald in patches, the poor canine was unable to stand, his legs flailing about in the mud and his own feces. The rescuers documented the animal's condition with video and photos, and Grimes took him to a vet. After the exam, Grimes took the dog (who she'd dubbed "Doogie") home, where she gave him a bath, food, and water.

That evening, Grimes was arrested and taken into custody for refusing to return Doogie to the "owners" whose long-term neglect was responsible for his suffering and near-death at the end of a chain. For taking courageous action, Grimes was charged with theft and receiving stolen goods, and was convicted on December 14, 2007. On the day of the guilty verdict, Grimes posted this statement: "Sadly, nothing will change until the laws are amended so that animals are no longer considered to be property, equal in value to a television set or a mailbox." She is scheduled to be sentenced on February 22nd, 2008.

While both Grimes and Doogie have suffered from a travesty of justice, her courageous act of putting a dog's welfare ahead of her own and facing down an unjust legal system has drawn unprecedented national attention to the problem she is fighting to fix. And she did help Doogie: he spent his final months with an adoring foster family, receiving at last the devotion, comfort, and tender care he had lacked on his chain. Grimes had also managed to rescue the dog formerly known as Worthless in 2003, having gone back with increased confidence as founder of Dogs Deserve Better to claim him from his neglectful "owners." She renamed him Bo, and enjoyed the privilege of being his guardian for the last six months of his life.

In her work and life, Grimes exemplifies the core concept of what being a guardian is all about: respecting animal companions as individuals who need care, attention, and respect to thrive. Her example shows that every person has the capacity to overcome their fears to help those who cannot help themselves. May she continue to succeed in her quest to free dogs from their binding chains.

What You Can Do:

IDA's January 2008 Guardian of the Month - Lacey Conner

From rescue to advocacy, VH-1's Rock of Love "bad girl" does good for animals

Lacey Conner

Lacey Conner is best known for her role as a contestant on Rock of Love, VH-1's reality TV series that pitted 20 young women against each other for the romantic affections of rock star Bret Michaels, lead singer of popular '80s glam-metal band Poison. Fans of the show will remember Lacey as the "villain" who took to provoking the other girls, but her friends and admirers would attest this was more like a character she was portraying than the genuinely sweet and caring person she is in real life. Lacey says she strategically chose the troublemaker role because it made for more interesting viewing and earned her extra camera time — which she often used to speak out strongly against cruelty to animals.

"I tried to use the show as a platform to shine a light on issues relating to animals," Lacey says. For instance, she infamously had it out with another girl on the show who decided to flaunt her fur coat and make jokes about killing animals. Lacey explains that "I made it very clear in my response that, in my opinion, there is nothing 'cool' about torturing and killing innocent animals for their fur, and nothing funny about the pain they suffer for human vanity."

More recently, Lacey spoke out against fur again while visiting family for Thanksgiving in her hometown of Dallas, Tex. at a Fur Free Friday demonstration co-hosted by IDA and local groups. Over the years, Lacey has also protested the circus, and helped IDA protest seal slaughter by joining us outside of the Canadian Embassy in Los Angeles, where she has lived for the last three years. But Lacey's primary passion these days is her animal rescue operation, New Dawn Pet Rescue, which she founded in April 2007.

Lacey Conner

Lacey's rescue work begins at the L.A. city animal shelter, where she finds dogs who are about to be put down and takes them home so they can have another chance at life. Because of the volume of animals coming into the shelter, many of these canines are young and healthy, but some are ill or injured, so Lacey makes sure they get all the veterinary care they need to recover. At any given time, there may be five or six dogs running around her house and yard, and she also has three dogs of her own — Sadie, Siouxsie, and Scout — as well as a beloved horse named Paladin.

In 2008, Lacey plans to continue attending animal rights protests, and has some big career plans as well, which include another possible program on VH-1 that she hopes will offer her more opportunities to get the animal rights message out. She has also been making noise for animals as a musician, specifically as the lead singer of Nocturne, an industrial-Goth band that often incorporates animal and human rights themes into its lyrics. Lacey recently decided to take an indefinite hiatus from Nocturne to pursue a more pop-infused direction in her music, but still aims to include animal motifs in her songs.

If there is one thing Lacey hopes to rouse in people, it is a desire and determination to do something to help animals. "It seems that a lot of people truly do care about animals, but are unaware of the level of cruelty that is sanctioned by society," she says, "so we need to focus on making them aware of what is really happening, however disturbing it is." Emails from young fans who are inspired by Lacey's outspoken compassion to help animals motivate her to keep up the good work, but she emphasizes that you don't need to be a celebrity to make a difference.

"I try to set an example that will encourage people to do something, no matter how big or small," she says, "because collectively, if we all do our part, it will add up to be something huge! We each need to use whatever means we have at our disposal — in my case, a role on a TV show — to rally people into getting excited about making the world a better place. And that's what I intend to keep doing, wherever my career takes me."

Learn more about Lacey Conner, IDA's January 2008 Guardian of the Month, at

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