Hilary Swank is ecstatic. The two-time Oscar-winning actress has another accomplishment of which she can be proud: As ambassador for the Iams Home 4 for the Holidays campaign, she has helped 1.4 million animals find loving homes in the last few months.
As the owner of two rescued dogs, Karoo and Rumi, and two rescued parrots, Angel and Seuss, pet adoption is something Swank preaches and lives.
Just days after the Iams Home for the Holidays campaign ended earlier this month, Swank spoke with Paw Nation and opened up about the first pet she ever had, why she’s passionate about pet adoption, and why she never leaves home without her pets — all four of them!
How do you feel about having helped 1.4 million animals find homes?
I’m thrilled. Especially during these difficult economic times, for people to bring another animal, another mouth that needs to be fed [into their homes], it’s quite incredible. It just makes me so happy to know that these animals that were homeless, they now have a chance at life in a loving home.
Why do you feel so strongly about helping animals get adopted?
They don’t have a voice to be able to speak about their situations. They need advocates to go out and speak for them and encourage anyone who wants to bring an animal into their home to adopt. When you hear those statistics, that 8 million animals yearly are homeless and approximately 6 million of them get put to sleep, you’re just like, spread the word!
Growing up, were you always interested in rescuing animals?
I have always been into rescuing animals. I was made aware at a young age of animals that needed homes, and to me, it was never a question about adopting versus buying purebred.
Do you remember the first pet you ever had?
Yes. My very first pet was actually a cat that found us. It just showed up on our back porch, meowing and starving. It was one of those situations where my mom said, ‘Sure, we can bring it in for a couple of days until the owner comes,’ and the next thing you know, 10 years later we still had the cat.
What was the first pet you owned as an adult?
It was an 8-week-old puppy I got from a Los Angeles animal shelter. He was a Labrador retriever mixed with something that had long hair. I was 18, just moved out of [my parents’ house]. I brought that dog home and named him Lucky. Actually, he just passed a year and a half ago.
Do you feel there is a different kind of bond that develops when an animal is adopted?
I personally do. Dogs’ language is intuitive because they don’t speak. They have intuition and they know that they’ve been saved. An animal that’s close to death and in a shelter not knowing what their next day’s going to be — when you bring them home, they know you saved their life. I know it. My dogs bring so much joy to my life, and I know they’re so happy.
As an animal lover, how do you stop yourself from adopting more pets?
It’s really, really hard, let me tell you. But when you get a good balance of animals — I think you just have to know. I like to travel with mine. So traveling with two dogs and two parrots is challenging enough for me. They’re my family members and I don’t want to go anywhere without them. My job entails me to travel a lot and I’m lucky enough to be able to bring them with me. If I got any more, it would compromise their quality of life. So I just try to get out there with Iams to spread the word to help get the animals that I want to bring home adopted.
You get to take your pets on film locations with you?
Yes, I do. Aren’t I lucky?