Television personality Katie Cleary knew by the age of 11 that she wanted to be a voice for suffering animals when she unexpectedly discovered that only 5,000 tigers were left in the wild. Determined to make a difference then and there, she immediately started raising funds to help endangered species, while increasing awareness of animal welfare issues, and has since turned that passion into a lifelong mission.
Katie, who first gained notoriety on the television show, America’s Next Top Model and Deal or No Deal, is today a successful filmmaker, actress, model and animal welfare activist. Voted one of People Magazine’s “Top 50 Most Beautiful People,” she is using her influence and contacts in the entertainment industry to spread her message about protecting animals.
MiLLENNiAL met up with Katie at the Wildlife Waystation (WWS) in Los Angeles, a sanctuary and wildlife refuge center for exotic animals, where she introduced us to three beautiful rescue animals – Chloe, a 2-year-old bear cub, Rowdy, a 14-year-old Capuchin monkey, and Mira, a 6-month-old Bengal tiger.
Using the Power of Celebrity to Speak Up
Taking full advantage of her unique opportunities to raise awareness, Katie tells us, “Having a platform in entertainment gives me a voice. It allows me to reach people on a global scale to spread my message about animal welfare issues to a wide audience.”
In 2012, she founded Peace 4 Animals, a non-profit organization that highlights international animal welfare issues, in particular endangered species. It also assists in rescuing, rehabilitating and finding homes for domestic animals while educating the public on the benefits of supporting local shelters as opposed to using breeders or pet stores.
“It is important to give to those who cannot speak for themselves,” she says. “I believe as a society that if we looked and handled our practices towards the animal kingdom with love instead of pride or ego, we would be able to make a monumental impact.”
Martine Colette, a long time animal activist and the owner of the Wildlife Waystation, tells MiLLENNiAL, “Katie Cleary is a very forward thinking and creative young woman. She has taken her assets and passion and actually made it work…many people talk but don’t put things into action. Awareness is the first step to finding a solution. And, Katie creates awareness!”
Producing a Documentary to Identify the Problem
In 2014, Katie produced and co-wrote Give Me Shelter, a powerful documentary highlighting the most widespread issues facing the animal world. The winner of several awards including “Best Doc Short” at the Los Angeles Cinema Festival of Hollywood, this eye opening film includes interviews with animal advocates that work every day to care for mistreated animals.
“Give Me Shelter is the first documentary I created and produced about the most important animal welfare issues worldwide,” Katie explains. The film uncovers the atrocious treatment of domestic as well as wild animals that are exploited for commercial purposes including clothing and food. It also shares the brutal nature of puppy mills, horse slaughters, fur farms, and the trading of exotic animals.
Featuring actors Tippi Hedren, Esai Morales, Michael Varton, Academy Award winner Ric O’Barry, and many other supporters that are eager to lend their name to this cause, Give Me Shelter captures how far we need to go regarding the animal rights movement.
“The most amazing part of making this film was being able to work with my friends in the entertainment industry who share the same passion.” Katie reflects on the days of filming with her fellow advocates. “I really enjoyed working with my mentor, Tippi Hedren, who is a good friend and has the big cat sanctuary, Shambala, where she has rescued over 65 lions, tigers and leopards from unfortunate circumstances.”
Katie also discovered a wealth of information from actor Ric O’Barry. “His experience with marine mammals, especially dolphins, added another amazing element to the film.” The second installment of Give Me Shelter will begin production in 2016. Some of the new issues they will highlight include bear bile farming, the dog and cat meat trade in China and factory farming.
The Devastating Truth of Animal Cruelty
While the rewards are many, there are times when working in the animal industry can be heartbreaking. Dealing with the horrific images of abuse and neglect is something Katie will never get used to, but it is this insight that she believes will motivate audiences to take action.
“For so many years I have had to learn how to cope with it, but in order to be effective, I realized there is a time for everything. I have seen so many videos, read articles, had people send me so much information, it’s hard to keep track, but I had to build a wall,” she insists.
The killing of Cecil the Lion this past summer, which gained worldwide attention demanded action according to Katie. Cecil, a well-known male lion who lived in the Hwange Game Reserve in Zimbabwe, was lured away from the park and killed by Dr. Walter James Palmer, a big game hunter and dentist from Minneapolis.
“Our goal is to shut down trophy hunting for good. Killing is not a sport. Palmer should be extradited to Zimbabwe for what he did, and they should try him for his illegal actions,” says Katie. She is equally disturbed about the position the New York Blood Center has recently taken by abandoning the care of chimps in Liberia after 30 years of biomedical research.
While the research ended ten years ago, the Center has provided the financial care for these chimps in their retirement which amounts to approximately $30,000 per month. With no means to support these animals, the Liberian Institute for Biomedical Research in Charlesville, has had to search for other donors. The chimps run cage free and are totally dependent on their caretakers, as there is little natural food on the islands.
“I think it is embarrassing, classless and incredibly cruel for the New York Blood Center to withdraw all funding for these chimps,” Katie tells us. “The monthly costs are a drop in the bucket for facilities like the Blood Center who treated these poor chimps like garbage after they were finished with them. They need to step up and do the right thing.”
Animal rights organizations have long argued that horses do not belong in such an atmosphere as midtown Manhattan. Regarded as one the densest urban areas in North America with extreme traffic congestion, Katie has rallied for the ban of carriage rides. “It is not right for them to be subjected to being hit and injured when alongside a vehicle.”
What the Future Holds for Katie Cleary
Animal rights and environmental protection are not easy subjects to tackle, and some may even think only a person with superhuman strength could juggle both issues; but for Katie it’s all about trying to make the world a better place not just today, but for the future.
She is now turning much of her attention to legislative issues and along with her Peace 4 Animals foundation, is working with Social Compassion in Legislation, a nonprofit animal welfare organization devoted to supporting legislation that encourages a better future for animals, the environment and humanity.
“Compassion is learned. Not all people are born with it. So teaching empathy and concern is key, especially so children have respect for animals,” Katie says. She has pushed for programs not only in the classroom, but for those that will give children a one-on-one experience, where they can find solutions to issues that affect their local community. This small change, she believes, will allow children to realize that “every little step will help to repair what has already been done to our world.”
Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, expresses his organization’s admiration for Katie’s tireless work and efforts. “At the HSUS, we’re proud to have worked with Katie for years and to collaborate on animal protection issues.” He continues, “Her film, Give Me Shelter, is an eye opener on many issues that often go unnoticed, and the information and the way she’s told the story will go a long way toward advancing our mission of protecting animals and touching minds and hearts.”
For now, Katie’s goal is to continue Peace 4 Animals while encouraging growth and awareness to her causes. Ultimately, she would one day like to see the organization expand with offices in Los Angeles and New York.
“I keep networking, meeting people, attending rallies, and charity events,” she says when asked how she is gaining momentum for her causes. “I always knew that being a voice for animals was my calling, and something I was going to do for the rest of my life.”
It’s safe to say, Katie Cleary’s fight for animal protection will only get stronger as her mission continues to prevail. For more information regarding Peace 4 Animals, contact Peace4animals.net and visit WorldAnimalNews.com for updates on animal welfare.
Photos taken by Curious Josh.