Animal Advocate Judie Mancuso Talks Pets During This Weeks’ National Pet Week


I have ten companion animals that live with me. All of them rescued, all of them hard luck cases. My eight cats and two dogs were either stray or abandoned by previous owners; basically, tossed out like trash.

It was 1987 when I found Spike, Emmett, and Lulu as kittens living near my home in Laguna Beach. I spotted them one day on a walk. That same night I heard a cat being taken by a coyote. The next day I went to check on the kittens I had seen the day before and there they were with no mother to be found. After waiting to be sure the mother was indeed gone, likely the victim of the coyote the night before, a friend helped me carefully corral them to bring home. Two of the three, Lulu and Emmett, were both socialized, while the third, Spike, remained semi-feral.

Sadly, Lulu died of aggressive stomach cancer at the age of ten. Luckily, her sister Spike, a female runt with a big personality, and her brother Emmett, a strong, but tremendously affectionate male, are both still with me and turning twenty this year.

 Emmett and Spike

Bootsie was dumped outside a city shelter when his owners were either too ashamed or couldn’t be bothered to bring him inside. People can be such cowards. Many animals are dumped in parking lots of shelters just like Bootsie. Luckily, Bootsie made friends with the folks at my ex-husband’s work. The guards shared their lunches with him. One day as my ex was headed home, one of the guards handed him a box on the way out of the gate. Inside the box was the black and white tuxedoed boy, Bootsie. That was eighteen years ago. Bootsie is still with me and still as fun and playful as he was as a kitten. He is smart, loving, and good tempered. Bootsie is truly the bell of the ball. I’m positive if his previous owners had kept him instead of dumped him; they would be a better person for it in many ways. I know Bootsie has enriched my life immeasurably.


Lily and Linus were on their last day at a shelter in Los Angeles. They couldn’t have been older than eight weeks. Linus’s cage card said that he was “food aggressive,” which is funny to think about every time I see him share his food bowl with his doggie sister, Candy. Lily and Linus are full grown and 4 years old, now. Linus is the big brother who gets too rough with his little sister. But he just can’t help himself! One minute, Lily is mad at him for the roughhousing, the next she is grooming him or cuddled up next to him. To me he is the mama’s boy always looking for my attention, and, of course, getting it. Lily is the sweet as can be and as beautiful as the flower she is named after. She greets me in the morning by giving me kisses on my nose.



Bella was not only dumped in a parking lot, but evidently kicked like a football before being left to die. She weighed only ounces, and was maybe six to eight weeks old. Poor Bella had all her internal organs shoved into her chest which required immediate life-saving surgery. We sent her by ambulance in an oxygen tank to my dear friend, Dr. Nancy Hampil, who saved her life. Today, Bella is the most beautiful, gorgeous, healthy, four-year-old girl who sleeps next to me every night. Just before the light goes out for the night, Bella gives me love bites on my hands as I pet her. That extra “I love you” signal animals give gets me every time. They can’t talk, but they communicate with their body language, meows, purrs, and barks. It takes care and attention, but once you’ve connected with an animal and can read them without a word being spoken, it’s magical!


Malia was marked for euthanasia before a friend of mine that works with rescues pulled her from the shelter. Malia is a petite black female cat. Black cats have it bad; they get euthanized far more than other colored cats as there are many of them and not enough homes. I saw her picture and couldn’t say no. She is absolutely the most sweet, warmhearted girl anyone could ever ask to have in their life. So many Malia’s get put down every day. These animals do not deserve this fate, a fate met only because humans have failed them. My heart goes out to them and it keeps me fighting the good fight for animals every day of my life, bringing legislation forward to end the overwhelming pet overpopulation crisis once and for all.



Next, there is Gidget, a truly feral kitty for the first fifteen years of her life. Now, after all these years, she’s suddenly decided it’s ok to put her guard down and allow me to pet her and even sneak a kiss in here and there. I’m so fortunate she let me in to pet her in her golden years; I even get purrs from her now.

Gidget and Emmett

And finally, my amazing dog companions, Candy and Dinky. I hadn’t had a dog since I was a teenager, which is now a few decades ago. So, having the two little dogs is basically a new experience for me; and thank goodness one I did not miss out on.

Candy and Dinky photos

Candy and Dinky are Chihuahuas that a backyard breeder bred until he literally threw them out in the street. Thankfully, a neighbor saw the man do it. She approached the man and asked what he was doing, they could be hit by a car. He said, “I don’t care. I’m done with them.” The good Samaritan took the dogs and called a local rescue to help her find them a home. I saw their photos and read their story and fell instantly in love with their innocent loving little faces. They have been with me for five years. I’m not sure how old they are, but estimate about eight years old or so. I hope they live forever, though! They have helped me grow and made me a better, more patient person. I often wonder who rescued who. It’s not always so clear to me.

In closing, please open your hearts and your homes to an animal in need. However one wants to phrase it; put-down, euthanize, or put to sleep, we kill hundreds of thousands of animals in California every year. Thankfully, we have the power to shrink that number. This is a problem that can be fixed and here is how:

  • Spay and Neuter – Unwanted litters are one of the top contributors of shelter populations.

  • Microchip – Collars fall off, it’s just a fact. Permanent identification by microchipping your pet greatly raise the chances a lost pet will be brought back home safely.

  • Keep your animals in a safe, healthy enclosure. Do not let cats roam – that is a death sentence. Between cars, dogs, wildlife, kids, poisons, etc., the odds are against them.

  • Adopt. Adopt. Adopt! Go to a shelter; go to a rescue group, use, or one the many other sites that match people with their new best friend.

  • Never Abandon Your Pet! When you commit to a pet, you are committing for life. If you can’t make that commitment, then don’t get the pet to begin with. They call it a “forever home” for a reason!

Lastly, my non-profit group, Social Compassion in Legislation is sponsoring a life-saving bill this year in California. We were fortunate enough to find a California legislator with a big heart for shelter pets and a big brain for excellent public policy in Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell of Long Beach. Assemblymember O’Donnell is carrying AB 485, the Pet Rescue & Adoption Act in the California legislature.

The bill is modeled after successful local ordinances throughout the state that prohibit the sale of commercially bred animals in pet shops and promote the adoption of shelter or rescued animals. It’s a win for pet shops, a win for shelters and rescues, and a BIG win for the animals!

With the passage of AB 485 and educating pet owners on the five points listed above, we can stop the pet population problem and ensure every animal born in California has a loving home to live happily ever after. Let’s make this dream a reality!

The 35th Anniversary of National Pet Week, May 7 – 13, seemed an ideal time to welcome a post from accomplished animal advocate Judie Mancuso. In addition to being the Founder and President of Social Compassion In Legislation, Mancuso also founded the California Spay and Neuter License Plate Fund as well as is a board member for Peace 4 Animals and California’s Veterinary Medical Board.


You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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