Written by Hanna Lee

Lee Goldberg always had a soft spot in her heart for furry creatures. Growing up, she constantly brought home stray dogs and cats, and decided at the age of seven to become a vegetarian. Growing up in a poor area, Goldberg frequently witnessed dogs chained and mistreated throughout the neighborhood.  “I saw animal cruelty a lot as a kid and it was difficult for me,” reflects Goldberg. “I think if I’d grown up in a different part of town where I didn’t witness that as much, I’d still love animals, but I wouldn’t understand the scope and the cruelty.”

When Goldberg decided to pursue a law degree she naturally knew she wanted to use her legal skills to help defend animal rights. “It’s obviously important to be able to support yourself and make a good living, but I knew I wouldn’t be completely fulfilled if I wasn’t using my skills to improve the lives of animals,” said Goldberg. Along with four other attorneys, Goldberg established the Los Angeles based Animal Advocate Alliance. The nonprofit is devoted to shelter adoption, humane education and legal advocacy for animals.

The Animal Advocate Alliance educates people about animal shelters and what actually happens to the majority of pets that are relinquished there.  The Los Angeles county shelter system has an extremely high kill rate, and a significant number of shelters across the country are unwilling to disclose how many animals they put down. Goldberg also mentions the dangers of unethical breeders who run “puppy mills.” Animals are frequently mistreated and abused at puppy mills, and are sometimes euthanized for what breeders consider “defects.”  Goldberg also warns of the antiquated gassing methods used by shelters in rural areas.

Goldberg is constantly reminded of what’s at risk if she can’t find home replacements for animal.  Recently, she had a heartbreaking experience while returning dogs to a shelter after an Animal Advocate Alliance adoption day. “I took towels the dogs were laying on out of my truck to put them in the laundry at the back of the shelter,” recalls Goldberg. “Someone had left out a bin of several dead animals that’d just been euthanized. It was a sobering moment where I realized there is only so much we can do.”

Despite the horrible moments of animal injustice that Goldberg witnesses, she’s also seen happy endings. Animal Advocates Alliance facilitates adoptions through an extensive application process. According to Goldberg, the most important quality they look for in an adoption candidate is commitment. “I really need to see that the person is committed to taking care of the animal for the rest of his or her life,” explains Goldberg. “We look for families that won’t give up on the animals if they get sick or misbehave. They need to love them even if the novelty of having a puppy wears off.”

Goldberg’s most memorable adoption story is about a 13-year-old blind, diabetic Chihuahua. “The dog’s family dumped her at a high-kill shelter because they couldn’t take care of her anymore and wait for her to pass on her own. It was so heartbreaking for me that I had to take her home,” remembers Goldberg. “I fostered her for about three months, and then the most wonderful couple adopted her. She’s lived for two years, and it touches my heart that this couple would put aside her disabilities and age to give her a happy ending to life.”

Fostering dogs from the shelter is not foreign to Goldberg. She’s had about 100 foster dogs over the last seven years. Currently, she has four dogs living with her but attempts to not have more than five animals at a time. As a life-long animal lover, she advises any young DoGooder interested in animal advocacy to volunteer at an animal welfare group. “Learn about the rescue and plight of animals in this country and volunteer your time,” advises Goldberg. “Spend time at a shelter, it is one of the most educational and gratifying things you can do.”

 

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