We asked 30 people who we admire to each interview one person they admire. That’s the concept behind the Interview Issue presented by Design Within Reach.
Champion equestrian Jessica Springsteen chose philanthropist and animal rights advocate Georgina Bloomberg
Follow @jessicaspringsteen and @georginabloomberg
I had no idea how many healthy and adoptable dogs end up in the pound and the experience of looking each one in the eye is one I will never forget.
A Promise to Hugo
Jessica Springsteen: Aside from your passion for horses, what sparked your desire to dedicate yourself to animal welfare?
Georgina Bloomberg: I had always considered myself an animal lover growing up, but I got to an age where I realized that I wasn’t doing anything to actually help them. I made a decision that I wanted to adopt a dog (since it was on my bucket list) and that changed my life. I went to meet a dog at a rescue in Jupiter, FL, and on my way home I got off the highway an exit too early and ended up on the road where the Palm Beach Animal Care and Control is. I took that as a sign that I was supposed to go in.
I had never been in a high-kill pound before—it was a life-changing experience and the moment when my dedication to animal welfare began. I had no idea how many healthy and adoptable dogs end up in the pound and the experience of looking each one in the eye is one I will never forget. I made myself walk down each aisle and then I went outside and bawled my eyes out in the parking lot.
I had no clue what that building was going to hold, but when I got myself together, I gave myself a kick in the ass and went back inside and adopted the love of my life, Hugo. On the way home, I made a promise to him that I would do everything in my power to help as many of the dogs that were not going to be as lucky as him that day. From that day on, I made myself learn everything I possibly could about why so many dogs end up in the pound and how I can help them. Hugo is still my best friend and the greatest dog I have ever met, and he is a daily reminder to me to keep fighting and working for the others.
It’s very easy for horses to end up in the wrong hands.
JS: You and I both work closely with the EQUUS Foundation, which is 100% dedicated to horse welfare. I know I was surprised to learn about the prevalence of horse slaughter; What’s an issue that really shocked you when it comes to horse welfare?
GB: I think horse slaughter is the most shocking. And I think that what most people (including myself) are so surprised to learn is that some of the show horses that we compete against actually end up there! As riders, one of the best things we can do is educate other riders about keeping track of your horses when they are sold. It’s very easy for horses to end up in the wrong hands, on a truck heading for a border or in a place where they are neglected. It’s easier said than done, but we all need to be responsible for our horses as much as possible in their old age.
From Promise to Action
JS: Last year you received the Humane Society’s “Compassion in Action Award.” How did you first get involved with the Humane Society and what has it been like to work closely with them over the past years?
GB: I first got involved when my good friend Amanda Hearst started a committee for young animal lovers with the HSUS dedicated to fighting puppy mills called, Friends of Finn. Finn is her dog she bought from a pet store, not knowing that pet store dogs all come from puppy mills. When she learned where he came from, she decided she needed to help educate people not to buy dogs and make the same mistake she did. I have worked with her on this issue for years and through that committee, started becoming more involved with all the issues the HSUS tackles. It’s an amazing organization that does such important work for animals all over the world, and I have been able to be hands-on with them, and do things such as go on a puppy mill raid and travel to Puerto Rico to help the wild horses on the island of Vieques.
JS: You’ve flown all over to rescue dogs and cats for rehoming, is there any rescue mission that is the most memorable to you?
GB: When I went to the island of Vieques with the Humane Society last year, I was able to clean out the animal shelter there and take more than 30 animals back to the US. The shelter there had never had an animal adopted since there are so many strays in Puerto Rico, no one needs to adopt—you just open your door! It gave them a fresh start and a new capability to go and help many animals on the streets there.
JS: What’s one thing people should be more aware of when it comes to animal rights?
GB: There are so many issues across the board and I feel like I never stop learning new ones to care about, or about things I didn’t know. I just recently learned more about the dairy industry and how badly animals are treated that produce our products, so now I’m trying to cut out dairy. I think that everyone cares about different things or about things in different levels, and that’s ok. I don’t judge people who do things I don’t, and I think that as long as you are educating yourself about the facts it’s up to each person to decide what animal rights should mean to them and what they want to stand up for.
I want anyone who can possibly do something to help, to be inspired to do it.
JS: What would you suggest as an easy way for someone to get more involved and make a difference?
GB: I am incredibly lucky to be able to do what I do. I don’t take it lightly and I don’t brag about it, but I do think it’s important to make it public for one reason. I want anyone who can possibly do something to help, to be inspired to do it. I always tell people to find a rescue in your area, go see what they need, how you can volunteer or help them. Sometimes that’s as simple as getting the word out or taking a dog on a walk. Do you know the amazing difference you will make to that dog that you got out of his cage for that walk?
JS: Are there any upcoming projects or missions that you want people to know about?
GB: My biggest dream is to start an animal sanctuary that helps people keep their animals. There are so many amazing rescues and even some great sanctuaries, but so many people who can’t take care of their animals temporarily are forced to give them up permanently. If we can help people who are in the hospital, deployed in the Army, fall into financial hardship, and are forced to give up their animals, keep them, we will be cutting down the number of animals that end up in the pound and euthanized. There are so many great animals that end up there because their owners can’t afford their vet bills if they become sick or injured, or are forced to move into housing where they can’t keep them, or for any other reason. There are very few options for someone who has a reason why they can’t keep their animals temporarily, and my wildest dream is to be able to help with this and provide some sanctuary where the animals can stay and then be reunited with their owners when suitable.