Carrie Ann Inaba, 45, is a dancer and choreographer best known as one of three judges on ABC’s award-winning Dancing With the Stars. She keeps her legs busy on the dance floor, but her mind and heart have been consumed recently with her Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project (CAIAP), which works together with animal rescue groups to help abused and neglected animals, promote adoption from shelters, and eliminate euthanasia. A native of Hawaii, Inaba now lives in Los Angeles with her Chihuahua rescue, Peanut (whose morning kisses whisk away any occasional moments of grumpiness), and four rescue cats. She is so passionate about the bond between two-legged and four-legged creatures that she does things like adopt animals with serious medical needs, and stay up all night to design CAIAP’s web site. The organization will host a gala in October, and Inaba’s goal is to raise $1 million for CAIAP. “I’ve had this idea since I was really young to bring together dancers to raise money for animals," she says. “Dancers are a lot like animals -- we’re the ones without a voice."
Your CAIAP web site is full of adorable dog photos. It seems glamour shots help shelter dogs get adopted.
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Yes, photos are a huge, important part. I’ve found that if you have a little dog and put him in a sweater, it will increase his chance of getting adopted. Even more so if you put him in front of pillows and blankets. It's about helping people imagine the dog in their home.
Your organization, Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project, works together with animal rescue groups to help abused and neglected animals.What has this process taught you about human behavior?
More than anything, I’ve found that I’m truly an animal lover, and that’s the community I relate to. These are people who will spend their last $25 on gas to transport an animal. Animals provide truly unconditional love. I want to share that with more people -- people who lack contact with other humans, like seniors who are alone. I think we could even work with the homeless population to help take care of our animals.
Do you think rescue pets need more TLC than other animals?
I know one thing: They know you saved them. If their life is in danger, they know it, and they show that appreciation in beautiful ways. You don’t know their past, so you have to be a lot more tuned in to your animal. And that’s the gift you get -- putting your energy toward another creature. That’s what love is.
You have a Chihuahua and four cats. Some of your pets have medical issues.