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Miranda Lambert: Country Star, Dog Rescuer

The singer/songwriter talks about staying healthy, her new album, and why she loves helping dogs.

Miranda Lambert's Dogs

Lambert and Blake Shelton, also an award-winning country singer, married in 2011 and live on a farm in Oklahoma with seven dogs, all either adopted from a shelter or picked up off the side of the road. Lambert knew when they got married that Shelton was a dog person. "I just don't think," she says, "he was planning on being a seven-dog person."

Most of the pups are named for artists or songs (including Cher, Loretta, Jessi, Waylon, and Delta, named after "Delta Dawn," a Tanya Tucker song), and the small ones tour with her. "They rarely get scared or nervous," she says. "They hang out on my bus and walk around venues with me like my friends. We are pretty in-tune from all the time we spend together."

Lambert has a soft spot for strays. Her first rescue, a West Highland white terrier or "Westie" mix named Delilah, inspired her to start Mutt-Nation Foundation (www.muttnationfoundation.com) in 2009, which raises money to increase pet adoption from shelters, support spay and neuter programs, improve shelter conditions, and reduce the euthanization of healthy animals.

"The voice of a celebrity talking about these issues can have a great impact," says Emily Weiss, PhD, CAAB, vice president of shelter research and development for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). "It can make folks aware that pet stores aren't the best places to go for a new pet."

While there is no national database tracking the number of animals that enter shelters, Weiss estimates the number at 5 million to 7 million per year, 3 million to 4 million of which are euthanized. "That leads us to think that about 50% to 60% of dogs that enter the shelters in this country don't leave alive," she says. "And it's even higher for cats."

There are more than 5,000 shelters in the United States and countless breed-specific rescue groups with networks of foster homes. Some shelters euthanize animals because there are simply far more dogs and cats than there are people coming to adopt them, and they run out of space.

According to Weiss, the vast majority of shelters strive to be "no-kill," which generally means they only euthanize an animal if he is suffering.

One of MuttNation's biggest successes was raising enough money to help the Humane Society of East Texas -- once a shelter that euthanized animals -- become no-kill. MuttNation has raised a half million dollars over the last four years for the shelter. Lambert says it's frustrating that some people have preconceived ideas about shelter dogs. "They think the dogs are used, or they're not as good as purebreds, and that's just not true," she says. Rescue pups have a unique appreciation that you don't find in dogs you'd get from a breeder, she adds. "Any kind of rescue dog -- they really know you've saved their life."

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