1. Iggy is Animal Fair’s first-ever solo cover. For years it has always been a pet and their owner, and for this reason alone, he stands on top as our number one Animal Headliner of 2007. Iggy has spent months gracing television and newspapers over a simple misunderstanding by the lovable Ellen DeGeneres. DeGeneres and her partner, Nip/Tuck star Portia de Rossi, had adopted Iggy from Mutts & Moms, a program that helps mutts and mothers of mutts find homes. In a tearful tell-all DeGeneres told America: “I got it neutered, I got it trained and I paid my vet extra money to take it home to sleep in the bed with him at night instead of a cage. I spent $3000 on this puppy to acclimate it, to train it to be with our cats. It was just too much energy and too rambunctious.” She later gave it away to her hairdresser and his household that included two little girls. DeGeneres went on to say “Well, I guess I signed a piece of paper that says if I can’t keep Iggy, it goes back to the rescue organization. Which is not someone’s home, which is not a family. These two little girls had bonded to the dog. I thought I did a good thing. I tried to find a loving home for the dog because I couldn’t keep it. I was trying to do a good thing.” In true headlining style, Iggy was taken away. Cameras even caught genuine tears from the young girl who begged for her dog back. Fans were outraged and backed Ellen, some went so far as posing death threats against Marina Baktis, who heads Mutts & Moms. Iggy was reassigned to a different home but did star in an Entertainment Tonight PSA with Mary Hart to promote the adoption of animals. “We agreed to do a PSA for ET because I was receiving too many e-mails and phone calls accusing me of having euthanized Iggy. Letting everyone see that he was alive and well stopped those nasty people from contacting me. I guess not everyone knows the difference between a shelter and a rescue group” Baktis told Animal Fair, claiming she did not do it for the money and adds “if you only knew what I’ve turned down over the past month.” Baktis does worry about Iggy’s fate. “I don’t want his family to have fears, for the rest of their lives, that someone will try to steal their dog.” The truth is Iggy made headlines because he was caught in a misunderstanding. He was never in danger, always well taken care of, and has even given back by using his face to raise awareness. Iggy’s spot in Animal Headliners of 2007 will only help him to continue to help dogs that need rescuing.
2. Heroes star Hayden Panettiere was an Animal Fair cover girl only two issues ago, but she continues to make headlines for her pristine care and driving fight for animal causes, helping dolphins make our list as Animal Headliners of 2007. This fall she joined an anti-whaling group called Sea Shepherd to peacefully protest the slaughtering of pilot whales (who are in the dolphin family) in Japan. “It was painful. It was something that you just look at it and say, ‘Who could do something to an animal like that?'” Panettiere said. The group met the fisherman in the water on surfboards, where they were killing the mammals trapped in nets, but the protesters were pushed away with the boat’s propeller and attacked by boat hooks. Panettiere, who is a spokesperson for SaveTheWhalesAgain.org, was floored by the experience and shed tears of utter sorrow. She just “hopes her traumatic ordeal will help raise awareness” reports Access Hollywood. Just recently, Panettiere became aware of a warrant out for her arrest in Japan, but it won’t stop this ambitious actress-activist. “I’d do it again … very possibly, might do it again.”
3. In New York City rats outnumber people 12 to 1, but why is there currently a growing demand for them in pet stores worldwide? The answer is Disney/Pixar’s film Ratatouille, which grossed nearly 600 million dollars in domestic and foreign markets, according to BoxOfficeMojo.com, elevating rats into animal headliners. The film follows a stereotype-defying Rat named Remy who dreams of being a professional Chef and features the celebrity voice work of Peter O’Toole, Will Arnett, Brian Dennehy, and Janeane Garofalo. After the film’s release, rat sales in Britain grew by 50%, 40% in France and the “United States reported a surge in demand for pet rats during the summer, [while] pet groups in Germany and Sweden have also said rat sales have surged thanks to the film,” Reuters reports. But activists fear this will result in a dying fad similar to the surges following Finding Nemo, 101 Dalmatians, and Easter’s annual bunny demand. Fad or not, the rats that look the most like the leading character in Ratatouille go for as high as 50 Euros, that’s almost 75 dollars! All the press and economic appreciation make rats huge Animal Headliners of 2007!
4. What’s the big fuss about a 150 pound pot-bellied pig being one of our Animal Headliners? Oxymoronically, it’s the pot-bellied pig’s weight. When Minnesota resident Michelle Schmitz left her pig, Alaina Templeton, with a pet sitter, she weight 50 pounds. Nine months later Schmitz returned and the pig had gained 100 pounds. The weight flux was so severe that Alaina had to go into a four and a half hour surgery just to get her collar removed from her swollen neck. The dispute made headlines across the country and overseas and is now sparking a potential lawsuit and investigation on abuse charges. “That pig is my life … she’s different now … she’s scared,” Schmitz says. She was so dedicated to the pig that she had Alaina’s name tattooed on her and cried for three days when she found out about the problem. Unfortunately, Alaina weighs in as our heaviest Animal Headliner.
5. Pit Bulls have been used for unlawful, devastating and horrific dog fighting for years, but once NFL star Michael Vick was caught with them in April, they made front page headlines. ESPN.com reports that after Vick’s Surry County, Virginia property was raided authorities “reportedly found – among other things – 66 dogs (most of which were pit bulls), a dog-fighting pit, bloodstained carpets and equipment commonly associated with dog fighting.” The offense is a felony in Virginia and Vick later pleaded guilty in a case that will rule this December. Animal Headliners status for Pit Bulls and other dogs trained to fight will only mean a crackdown in dog fighting, and a step in the right direction to end raising dogs for a lifestyle of fighting.
6. The Austrailian wrote “Trouble in paradise, but heirs in disgrace.” The New York Post and England’s Sun calls her a “Rich bitch.” But To Leona Helmsley her Maltese Trouble was not a dog, she was a “Princess.” Trouble was exactly the opposite, behaving more like her owner, who had been graciously dubbed by the media as the “Queen of Mean.” But when Helmsley passed away in August, the “Princess of Mean” made global headlines, earning her a spot in Animal Fair’s Animal Headliners of 2007. After dying of heart failure at age 87, Helmsley left her dog Trouble 12 million dollars, the largest bequest to a single individual in a will that snubbed two grandchildren and all 12 great-grandchildren. Trouble already has the makings of a true headliner, “at the age of 8, she has already been the star of a national advertising campaign and the subject of at least one messy lawsuit” the New York Times reports. Her headlines did earn her some added press, shortly after the news was announced, a friend of Helmsley received two phone calls from pet owners who wanted to breed with the Maltese. The New York Times reports: “one of the callers was joking; the other was serious.” So what’s next for the canine heiress? Aside from the potential revival of one of her biting lawsuits (pun intended), Trouble is no where to be found. Not even Animal Fair, Dear Lucky.com mascot and close personal friend, Lucky Diamond, can find this dog. As least this is one headliner who knows how to stay out of the press when the time is right.
7. According to Oprah Winfrey, her Golden Retriever Gracie “did more living in two years than most dogs do in 12. She never stopped moving. Was energy in motion. Chasing squirrels, hop-leaping through the pond like a rabbit. Finding anything she could to play with, chew, run with. Dashing, frolicking. Speeding across the lawn as though she were in a rush for life.” Gracie made headlines in May when she chocked on a ball intended for Oprah’s Cocker Spaniel and suddenly died shortly after her second birthday. In a heartfelt and emotional eulogy published in the August issue of O, The Oprah Magazine, Winfrey writes “I don’t believe in accidents. I know for sure that everything in life happens to help us live.” Winfrey believed the message the death sent was to “slow down,” something that Maya Angelou and her company head had both warned her to do. Animal Fair expresses its deepest sympathy and would like to remember Gracie fondly. Her spot in Animal Headliners is a dedication to her life.
8. When Dreamworks Animation and Paramount Pictures teamed up with Jerry Seinfeld to make the animated film Bee Movie, they had a recipe for success – just add honey. The film earned almost 40 million in its opening weekend and continues to gross steadily. Celebrities including Seinfeld himself, Renee Zellweger, Sting, Oprah Winfrey, Chris Rock, John Goodman, Kathy Bates, Matthew Broderick and Larry King leant their voices to the film which is about a bee who sues humans for eating honey. Ironically, Bee Movie got involved in a lawsuit of its own. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported that an organic body care product company BeeCeutricals Organics is suing the production companies for stealing their slogan “Give Bees a Chance,” who founder Richard Garber claims he thought up of in a dream and later filed for a trademark thorough a Miami court. While the lawsuit isn’t affecting the movie’s popularity, the two stories coupled together buzz bees onto our list of Animal Headliners of 2007.
9. Ving Rhames has always made good headlines. The actor, who was recently cast to play boxer Sonny Liston in the upcoming film Phantom Punch, even called up actor Jack Lemmon onto Golden Globe’s stage to give away his award. Rhame’s pets, on the other hand, have not been making the best headlines. When the Mission: Impossible actor was out of the country in August, his caretaker Jacob Adams was mauled by the dogs and quickly died. In a statement, Rhames said “Jacob Adams was not just a devoted employee – he was also a dear friend. I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to his family” going on to set the record straight that the “coroner’s report confirmed that my dogs were not the cause” of the death. Captain Matt Blake of the LAPD made similar findings. He said that Rhames three Mastiffs and one Bull Dog did indeed maul Adams, but found that “there is no solid evidence that they were the cause of death.” This is good news for Rhames, but it did not stop the four animals themselves from making major headlines as our Animal Headliners of 2007.
10. Topping off our list of Animal Headliners are Sea Turtles. This year, Animal Planet, partnered with Fresh Step Litter, named Jean Beasley as their “2007 Hero of the Year”, which was a “nationwide search and celebration of animal advocates who invest their time, talent and spirit to help animals in their community.” Beasley opened the Karen Beasley Sea Turtle Rescue & Rehabilitation Center in Topsail Beach, North Carolina in 1997 in memory of her daughter. The center is dedicated to helping and saving Sea Turtles and generates thousands of visitors each year. Beasley received a “$10,000 donation to the animal welfare organization of her choice from the makers of Fresh Step Litter, a trip for two to Hawaii and will be honored with a ‘certificate of appreciation’ for her dedication to improving the lives of animals.” For more information on her cause, visit: seaturtlehospital.org. For more information on Animal Planet’s contest, or to nominate an animal advocate, visit: animalplanet.com.
– David Alex Andrejko