WASHINGTON, D.C.—I wrote this last spring for a special edition of Canyon News that featured pets. However, since that time and after speaking with star Tippi Hedren, I figured that it was time to reprint it again, since nothing has changed in our nation, and animals that belong in the wild are still being kidnapped, adopted, trafficked and sold on the black market. These animals often include big cats.
Tippi Hedren is an American actress and former fashion model with a career spanning more than six decades. Though perhaps primarily known for her roles in two Alfred Hitchcock films, “The Birds” and “Marnie,” she has appeared in over 40 films and numerous television movies and series. Tippi continues to work frequently in motion pictures, theatre, episodic and cable television, and her contributions to world cinema have been honored with Life Achievement awards in France at the Beauvais Film Festival Cinemalia and in Spain by the Fundaci ón Municipal De Cine.
However, the role that is most associated with Hedren is that of den mother to almost 100 exotic felines and her extensive efforts in animal rescue at the Shambala Preserve (Shambala.org), an 80-acre wildlife habitat that she founded.
Tippi was recently honored as a “Woman of Vision” by Women of Film and Video in Washington, D.C., and received the Presidential Medal for her work in film from Hofstra University. In addition, Tippi was recently honored as “Best Actress in a Comedy Short” in the film “Mulligans!” at the Method Fest Independent Film Festival, and she won Best Actress for the short film “Tea With Grandma” from the New York International Independent Film Festival. In 2009 and 2010, audiences and critics alike responded positively to her roles on “4400” as Lily Moore Tyler, on “Fashion House” as Doris Thompson and on “CSI” as Karen Rosenthal. In 2003, she was honored by the Hollywood Chamber with a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tippi uses her fame to help animals who are often abused, mistreated and abandoned.
She has dedicated her life to saving the wild, big cats of the world. She’s also a tireless advocate in the quest to outlaw these majestic and beautiful animals from being household pets. Whenever people purchase exotic animals, they fall in love with them as kittens or in the baby-stage, only to learn later that these animals are large and potentially deadly to their owner and the community.
There have been horrible stories about exotic creatures being neglected in our nation. From tigers living in an apartment in Harlem, N.Y. to animals living in the southwest desert in the U.S. in cages malnourished and dehydrated. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of these types of animal hoarders around the nation who place not only themselves in danger, but also the animals. Tippi is very sad about the way these animals are being raised and mistreated, and she has not only lobbied the California General Assembly but also the United States Congress in order to make it illegal to have people raise these animals. Most of the owners are not licensed or even trained to care for exotic creatures who can be dangerous and deadly at the same time.
Several years ago, when Michael Jackson became unable to care for his big cats Sabu and Thriller at the Neverland Ranch, Tippi agreed to care for the cats so that they would not suffer and would be in a safe facility. Since Jackson’s death, Hedren has given an open invitation to Katherine Jackson, grandmother and caretaker of Jackson’s kids, to allow Paris, Prince and Blanket to visit her Shambala facility to see the animals with which they grew up. To date, the invitation has not been accepted by any adult caring for the minors.
People often do not look at the long-term care and needs of these beautiful creatures. As kittens, they were adorable, so perhaps the pop star considered them to be great pets for the kids. As they became older and more powerful, the kids were most likely kept away from them. Now a year after Michael’s death, the animals have not seen the three Jackson children in years, and they are being cared for strictly by the donations, fundraising and care the actress and animal advocate Hedren offers them.
Hedren recently told me, “It takes $75,000 per month to run Shambala. This place exists because there is a need for it. I hope one day these beautiful creatures can all live in the wild and not have their habitat destroyed by man, and they are no longer placed in homes around the U.S. as household pets.”
Although many who read this are not celebrities, perhaps we can all make a difference and open our hearts to the animals in shelters and the ASPCA in your region and adopt a loving pet, so it can have the right to live and be happy.
Photograph of Sabu and Thriller is Courtesy: Bill Dow Photography