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Carrie Ann Inaba:
Dancer for the Rescues

by Carie Broecker


Carrie Ann Inaba graciously invited Coastal Canine into her Los Angeles home to find out more about her passion for animals, to meet and photograph her furry family (which includes two new rescue puppies, Lola and Buddy; her little Chihuahua mix, Peanut; and her four kitties, Squeaker, Taz, Mimi, and Blizzard), and to learn about her inspiration for starting the Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project.

Carrie Ann is a successful singer, choreographer, dancer, and judge on the popular television show, Dancing with the Stars, but her heart belongs to the animals. From the beginning of her show business career, Carrie Ann always knew a successful career would be the means that would enable her to help as many animals as possible. She still dreams of one day creating a sanctuary where she can be surrounded by the animals that she respects and loves so dearly.

Growing up in Hawaii next to a wildlife preserve, Carrie Ann was instilled with the value of being the “keeper of the wild.” Mentored by her father, a devoted animal lover, she has always felt her job was to watch over and protect the animals. In Hawaii, she had not been exposed to the animal overpopulation crisis. She hadn’t been to a shelter or volunteered for a rescue group.

It wasn’t until decades later, while looking for a place to volunteer her time with animals, that Carrie Ann got a quick education in the daily crisis faced by thousands of dogs and cats across the country, living out their finals days in a shelter, terrified and alone.

She signed up with iparticipate.org, which connects people with the perfect volunteer opportunity for them. Somehow she got on several email lists identifying animals in need at local shelters.

Each day her inbox was filled with photos and stories about dogs and cats in shelters needing medical care, needing foster homes, needing money for boarding, needing transportation to safety, needing one more day, needing someone to care. There seemed to be endless photos of cats and dogs in need. It was overwhelming, but Carrie Ann started writing checks. She wrote as many as she could from her personal account. She would send $150 here, $100 there. She did whatever she could do to help save a life.

Carrie Ann soon learned about the incredible network of devoted rescuers who are saving lives. She learned how many people it takes to save one dog or one cat. From the animal control officers, to the volunteer who sends out the email looking for a commitment from a rescue group, to the rescue group who puts out the plea for sponsorship and foster care, to the person who picks up the animal and transports him to the vet clinic or foster home, to the family who fosters, to the family who adopts. It does take a village to rescue each and every dog and cat.

One day Carrie Ann got an email from one of the rescue groups with a photo of a 10-year-old Boxer. She couldn’t even see the dog’s face, but her body language broke Carrie Ann’s heart. She knew she had to save her. The next day she adopted her and named her Cookie. She had been neglected and abused. She probably spent most of her life in a crate. Her body was covered with cigarette burns. She was a nervous dog. Carrie Ann fell in love with her, and Cookie blossomed and learned to trust, and in the last 18 months of her life, she learned what love was. And it was good.

cai and peanut

Before Cookie passed away, Carrie Ann adopted a second dog, little Peanut. Carrie Ann was doing a broadcast, Access Hollywood Live, and they were interviewing someone from Best Friends Animal Society. Throughout the broadcast, Carrie Ann held Peanut, a black Chihuahua mix. Peanut shivered with nervousness throughout the broadcast. Three weeks later, Carrie Ann got a call from Best Friends. Peanut still needed a home. Could they put in another plug for her? Carrie Ann said, “I’ll come adopt her!”

Cookie didn’t quite know what to make of Peanut, but Peanut adored Cookie and showered her with love. The highlight of her morning was waking up to give Cookie a kiss on the nose. It was a very sad day for both Carrie Ann and Peanut when Cookie passed away earlier this year.

Carrie Ann’s inspiration to start the Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project came after her soul mate kitty, Shadow, passed away.

Carrie Ann shared, “When my cat of 19 years passed away, I was devastated. And I wanted to do something in his honor. He had saved me on so many occasions. He was like an angel to me and he inspired me to do more for animals in hopes that these animals could then be found homes and given the same kind of incredible love that I had experienced with him.”

That was her inspiration for starting the Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project. In Shadow’s honor, Carrie Ann’s own nonprofit raises funds to support rescue groups that are doing outstanding work for homeless cats and dogs. In less than a year, her foundation has given out over $42,000 in emergency medical grants and rescue funds. 

Her foundation also sponsors free spay and neuter events in Los Angeles to help reduce the number of unwanted puppies and kittens who often end up dumped at city shelters that have to euthanize them when there is no more space.

There are also plans to start a program in the schools to teach children about the human-animal bond and our lifetime responsibility to our pets.

Carrie Ann wants to learn every aspect of rescue work so she can be confident that the money the CAI Animal Project contributes is doing the most good that it can. To that end, she recently decided to foster two puppies from Mary’s Little Lambs Rescue so she could have the experience of fostering.

buddy and lola

She saw a photo of Buddy and Lola in an email post asking for help. They were leaning against each other. They had been found on the streets as strays, and she knew that all they had was each other. There were people offering to foster one or the other of the pups, but Carrie Ann couldn’t bear the thought of them being separated. She offered to foster them both. At the time of our interview, she was very close to making them permanent members of the family. There was a little hurdle to get over with teaching them to respect the kitties, but with the help of a trainer and self-appointed referee, Peanut, they’re beginning to abide by the rules of the household.

Carrie Ann is that much closer to living on the sanctuary she’s been dreaming of!

The CAI Animal Project is dedicated to supporting the rescue, welfare and wellbeing of animals. The CAI Animal Project collaborates with other rescue and animal organizations by funding and creating unique programs that help end the senseless killing of millions of innocent animals each year and encourages the human–animal bond that is so healing and enriching for us all. To learn more, visit http://www.caiap.org.


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