By Laura Drucker
The first word that comes to mind when trying to describe Carrie Ann Inaba is passionate. A dancer, choreographer, producer, and most notably, a judge on ABC’s mega-hit Dancing with the Stars, Inaba never does anything half-heartedly. The same goes for her commitment to animal welfare. Growing up in Hawaii, Inaba cultivated a love and respect for animals that has followed her throughout her impressive career. We caught up with her to discuss her pets, her projects, and of course, her passions.
TAILS: Tell us about your rescued pets.
Carrie Ann Inaba: I have seven rescues at home—three wonderful dogs and four special-needs cats. Peanut is about 5 years old. She was put into my arms during a taping of Access Hollywood by Best Friends Animal Society, who I am an ambassador for. I fell in love but wasn’t ready for a dog. A few weeks later, they called and asked if I could tweet a photo of her to help get her adopted. I said, “No, I’d like to come and get her.”
Lola and Buddy were found on the streets together. I get a lot of emails [about] animals who need foster homes or medical help, and these two melted my heart. They were going to be separated in foster care, and I said [I would] take them because I felt that if these two little beings were able to survive on the streets together then I wanted to let them continue to live out their lives that way.
I have four special-needs cats. Squeaker is my oldest. She is 19 and I found her at the pound. [When] I brought her home the doctors said she was going to die in a few weeks because she had a terminal illness. I locked myself in a room with her and vowed to make them the most love-filled weeks anyone could dream of. When I returned to the vet, she had been cured. Or perhaps it was a misdiagnosis. Either way, I was so grateful, and a bond that could never be broken was established.
Taz is my angel. He has one kidney, the other died off from kidney disease. My newest additions are Mimi and Blizzard. They came to me from Heaven on Earth Society for Animals. They both have FIV and some other health conditions, but they are wonderful.
Each one of my animals has a piece of my heart. I learn so much from them each day, and all my friends love coming over to my house because it is filled with nothing but love—it’s a pure and beautiful love that nurtures everyone who steps foot into my home. I am blessed.
You say your cat Shadow, who has since passed, was a major inspiration for the work you are doing today. How so?
He took such good care of me in the 19 years that we shared together. He walked in my front door one day and never left.… He became my soul mate from that moment on. Toward the end he had a lot of needs, so he became a huge focus of my life and my heart. When he finally passed on, I was left with a terrible emptiness because I still had so much love to give. I felt that I needed to give more of my love to animals. I adopted and rescued more and then realized I needed to reach out even beyond that, so I started The Carrie Ann Inaba Animal Project to help support the rescue and welfare of animals in need.
Last year, you co-created and launched a web series called CribCat. Can you tell us about that project?
That was a fun web series that I produced with Petsami.com. It featured a cat [who] was something of a mad scientist matchmaker. The goal of the series was to feature an adoptable cat each episode in a fun, lighthearted way. We did get some of the cats their “fur-ever” homes, otherwise known as their “cribs.”
Do you plan on doing anything similar with dogs?
I’m developing a new series right now called Carrie Ann’s Animal House that features my life with animals. There will be celebrity interviews and wonderful advice from my dear friend, veterinarian Karen “Doc” Halligan. We will, of course, be featuring adoptable animals—there are too many animals in need of forever homes to not feature some cute and lovable friends. We will also be featuring new products for animals and pet parents. We will probably begin shooting this fall.
Is your goal to one day open an animal shelter?
It always has been. Since I was a young girl, I saw myself with an animal shelter. The animals have always been there for me, supporting and loving me no matter what.
In your opinion, what is the best thing people can do to help animals?
Spay and neuter. Be a responsible pet parent. Do not get a pet only to decide you don’t want it later—it’s not fair. Don’t buy a pet for your child unless you are committed to keeping it forever. [A pet] is a life, and that life has a spirit. If you’ve ever loved an animal and been loved by an animal, you know that they know what is going on.
Also, if you can, foster an animal. It’s a gift. It helps to socialize the animal, gives the animal a chance at a new life, and allows the animal to be trained and better equipped to make the move into a forever home.
What is one thing no one knows about you except your pets?
That I love to sing. I sing all the time at home and they get all excited when I do, running around and following me everywhere. I like to think they like it when I sing, but sometimes I’m not sure!
What do you still dream of doing?
I still dream of writing and producing a drama and a sitcom, as well as [doing] a live show in Vegas—all of which I’m in development for. And if you want to know a secret, I still dream of releasing a folk album. I write music and play the piano and sing, and I’ve always wanted to release a few songs. I never give up on my dreams. And I encourage everyone to do the same.