Katie Cleary sits outside with two of her dogs

Katie lounging with Lucky the Chihuahua and
Lab mix Butch.

By Brian Fischler

It’s one thing to be beautiful on the outside. You just have to look to People Magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful People annual issue to see those who have been celebrated with this label. It’s another thing to be beautiful on the inside. Of course, there is very little recognition and notoriety for this. Katie Cleary (“America’s Next Top Model”) has the rare distinction of being beautiful on both the outside and inside.

A Chat with Katie

Growing up in Chicago, were there dogs in your life?

“I was a cat person. When I moved to Los Angeles, I had to get a dog. It’s when I picked out little Charlie,” says Cleary.

I’ve heard that you have six rescues, four dogs, and two cats. Does it ever get too crazy or Dr. Doolittleish around your house?

“Oh yeah, it gets insane, especially when we have guests over,” laughs Cleary, “My husband is like ‘Please don’t bring any more animals home.’ It is a lot of work.”

Please tell us a little about your dogs.

“We think Charlie is an Australian shepherd. He has the face but has a very small body. Butch, the grumpy one, is a 13-year-old German shepherd Lab mix. We rescued him from Compton. Lucky is a Chihuahua mix and had been hit by a car. Wolfie, who is a menace, is a Husky/Alaskan mutt who we found in a parking lot,” states Cleary.

Giving four dogs a home wasn’t enough of a challenge to you, you had to add two cats?

“Well, now it is three cats, as Alison Eastwood and I just rescued 12 cats, and we adopted one.”

Just like a family with a lot of kids, all of the Cleary’s animals have different personalities, making the Cleary household an interesting one, but do they all get along?

“The dogs are always wrestling and tackling each other. The dogs and cats all get along. We are currently training the Husky to be really gentle with the new kitten. We just started introducing them, teaching him to go easy on the biting of the neck. He’s learning, and getting it little by little each day,” explains Cleary. “Blue is the new kitten. He is really good with the dogs, and jumps over the barrier to play with the dogs.”

So, I guess Bill Murray was correct in Ghostbusters when he talked about a future of cats and dogs living together?

“Cats are so different than dogs. Their temperament is completely different, as with cats you have to sit back and let them come to you.”

When did your love of animals begin?

“I’ve been in love with animals ever since I was born. I’ve known I wanted to work with them or be a veterinarian since I was about seven years old. My mom would help me bottle feed kittens, take in dogs and squirrels, bottle feed them also and release (the squirrels) back into the wild. That’s when I knew a hundred percent that I wanted to do something with animals,” recalls Cleary, “I knew early on that modeling would be a great platform for me to start a not-for-profit to help animals. I wanted to help give them a voice and prevent animals from being killed.”

When did you start getting involved with animal rescue work?

“My Mom really taught me how to rescue animals. My husband is also an animal lover. We even met at a dog park. Having a great support team allowed me to really hit this thing hard,” says Cleary, “My husband completely supported me going to shelters to rescue animals and bring them home. We have been saving dogs from being euthanized. It really all started when I met my husband.”

How did being a finalist on America’s Next Top Model and being named one of People Magazine’s Fifty Most Beautiful People help with rescue work?

“’Top Model’ really gave me a platform to do more. The recognition is one of the best and worst things, as people listen to you a little more. Animal rescue work is my main objective. Having these shows behind me, and the notoriety has allowed me to do some good work.”

What is Peace for Animals?

“It is an animal welfare organization that we started a year ago dealing with endangered wild animals. We focus on the most important issues that endangered species are facing around the world. We recently launched World Animal News, a show that will be informative about the serious issues currently affecting wild animals. My goal is to do what Cesar is doing and be the female spokesperson for wild and endangered animals,” says Cleary. You can listen to World Animal News on their website at 11 a.m. Pacific Time.

Please tell us about “Give Me Shelter.”

“’Give Me Shelter’ is a documentary that I am producing about the most prevalent issues that animals are facing around the world. The film is about the issues tigers, orangutans, rhinos, and many other animals are facing. If things don’t change, we are going to lose a lot of these animals,” explains Cleary.

“Give Me Shelter” features appearances by Alison Eastwood, Michael Vartan (“Alias”), Esai Morales (“La Bamba”), Charlotte Ross (“NYPD Blue”), Elaine Hendrix (“The Parent Trap”), Kristen Renton (“Sons of Anarchy”), Robert Davi (“The Goonies”), and many more. The film focuses on topics such as the underground trade of wild animals, puppy mills, poaching, and animal abuse. You can view the trailer for Give Me Shelter on YouTube. The film’s producers are currently seeking a distribution deal.

With animals facing so many issues globally, how do you choose which ones to get behind?

“Thanks to Peace for Animals, I get so many emails from around the world, and I pick the ones I feel are most important. We get a lot of emails about tigers, dolphins, and orangutans,” states Cleary.

“Currently one of the biggest issues is taking place in Indonesia. The land is being bulldozed so palm olive plants can be planted, forcing orangutans away from their natural habitat. They are even killing the older orangutans and selling the younger ones on the black market as pets. We are petitioning stores like Trader Joe’s and Ralphs to stop selling these products that are using this palm olive. It’s just devastating.” You can help out by visiting the Care2.com website and searching for one of the many petitions out there to help save orangutans’ lives.

How can someone get involved in helping to fight animal abuse?

“I would say the best thing to do is use your social networks to help spread the word about the abuses taking place. Share article links and stories on your Facebook and Twitter accounts. Sign up for the Humane Society’s newsletter and volunteer at your local shelter. Saving the animals starts in your own backyard.

“Anyone can volunteer at a shelter and help by taking one of the dogs for a walk, or by playing with one of the kittens. A lot of these animals are put down because they can’t find them a home. By going to your local shelter and playing with these animals, you can help by taking photos of them and their ID tags, and posting them to your social networks. That way if someone sees them they will know where to go to adopt them. “You would be amazed at how successful posting photos along with their ID tags has been,” explains Cleary.

Peace for Animals is always looking for volunteers to get involved. To learn more about Peace for Animals visit their website at www.peaceforanimals.org, or to get involved contact them at [email protected].

There’s a famous quote from W.C. Fields, “Never work with animals or children.” I take it you don’t believe that?

“It depends how you are working with them. If it’s for education, that is very important. We are going to inner city schools and taking the children to wildlife centers. We’re teaching them how to interact with different species. I think that is very important,” states Cleary.

You are a very busy actress, model, and activist. What’s the toughest part about spending time away from your cats and dogs?

“You miss them so much. I hate not knowing what they are doing.”

Having been in beauty pageants throughout your life, would you ever switch to the other side and judge a dog show?

“Yeah, I would love to judge a dog show. It would be cool,” says Cleary.

What would you look for in the winner?

“I love their confidence. You can really tell when an animal knows who he is. Their body language is their biggest indicator, their coats, how well they are trained and obey their owners. Any kind of animal that is confident is so great to watch.”

Dogs are notorious for adapting their owner’s traits. Have yours adapted any of yours?

“Oh my gosh, I don’t know if they have. They are always watching me. They know how I feel, know if I am sad. They constantly have their eyes on me. They are very aware of every little move I make and are very protective. They always want to make sure I am ok.”

What’s the best part about having dogs in your life?

“The companionship. They just want to please you. They’re always waiting for you when you get home and are in a good mood. If you are having a bad day, they put you in a good mood.”

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