Alison Eastwood: Finding Forever Homes Beyond Hollywood

Alison Eastwood: Finding Forever Homes Beyond Hollywood

Several of the children of legendary film actor and director Clint Eastwood have made a name for themselves with their own successful careers in TV and film.

Alison Eastwood, daughter of Clint and his first wife, Maggie Johnson, was born in 1972 in Carmel, California. As she remembers, she grew up slapping the clapperboard on her father’s film sets and made her first (uncredited) movie appearance in “Bronco Billy” when she was 7 years old, which was followed by a larger role in the 1984 thriller “Tightrope” (both starring her father). She has gone on to accumulate a lengthy list of film credits, including “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” (1997), “Friends & Lovers” (1999) and “Poolhall Junkies” (2003).

Following in her father’s footsteps, Eastwood has also sat in the director’s chair, making her directorial debut with “Rails & Ties,” which starred Kevin Bacon and Marcia Gay Harden. She’s also directed “Battlecreek,” which starred actor Bill Skarsgård, who played the demonic clown in last year’s blockbuster horror film, “It.”

However, she has branched out from TV and film, as she’s also spent time as a model and fashion designer. In 2003, she posed nude for Playboy, and she has her own clothing line called Eastwood Ranch Apparel.

Eastwood grew up with several pets, and it wasn’t unusual for her to see wildlife during her childhood, including orphan deer that she remembers following her around. It was her parents, who she calls “huge animal lovers,” who she considers responsible for instilling a deep respect for nature and a desire to nurture animals.

“I’ve always loved animals, and I love taking care of them,” she said, adding that she’s long known that she has a passion for helping creatures that are unable to protect themselves. “Rescue seemed like a natural progression for me as an animal lover.”

She has raised awareness and worked with other nonprofit groups that have helped chimpanzees, farm animals and exotic animals. She has worked to ban the killing of wild horses and is the spokesperson for Marine Animal Rescue of Los Angeles. To make time for these causes, she has had to cut back on her acting career.

“I don’t pursue acting anymore,” she admitted. “I threw in the towel awhile back, when I turned 40. I decided to focus on other stuff, more behind-the-camera stuff. I’ve directed, and I have a couple of projects in the works.”

She was executive producer and host of “Animal Intervention” on Nat Geo Wild. But she has made her biggest impact in the animal rescue community with Eastwood Ranch Foundation, a nonprofit animal welfare organization that she founded in 2012. The mission of the group is to support abused, neglected and unwanted animals by working with other vetted rescues to pull domestic animals from high kill shelters and providing care until a forever home is found. Thanks to Eastwood, the organization has been helping to raise awareness on the topic of animal rescue. In 2016, she won a Pet Hero Award for Animal Advocate of the Year.

Eastwood is not shy about revealing her love of helping animals, noting that her TV show was a turning point in her life, and the inspiration for creating the Eastwood Ranch Foundation and now FosterFurkids.com.

“It stemmed from ‘Animal Intervention,’ a show that I sold to Nat Geo Wild,” she recalled. “We created [‘Animal Intervention’] because we wanted to go out there and do a rescue show about helping animals and highlight what was going on in the United States. Although the show mainly focused on rescuing exotic animals from private owners and roadside zoos, it got me inspired to do rescue myself.

“I got to travel and see how much need there was out there,” she continued. “When the show was over, I felt I had to go back to LA and figure out how I could best be of service [to animals in need of rescue]. That’s why we started the foundation and the nonprofit. We focused on dogs and cats here in LA and southern California, because of our horrible shelter system, the fact that we have a terrible overpopulation problem and high kill shelters.”

It’s clear that Eastwood is not second guessing her decision to dive into the world of animal rescue. In speaking with her, it sounds like she has no regrets.

“I love doing this,” she said. “It feels great when you go out to a shelter and pull four or five dogs. You put them in the back of the truck and they’re looking at you wagging their tails. They know they’ve gotten out of a very stressful, traumatic experience. It’s a great feeling to know you’ve saved some lives. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

And the stories that she hears from people who adopt animals from her rescue group only adds to her enthusiasm.

“It’s lovely to get pictures from different people of their families with new dogs and cats,” she explained. “They all look so happy. It warms my heart.”

She took the next step in her mission to help needy animals on January 1, 2017, by launching FosterFurkids.com, an online database that connects rescue groups and animal shelters with a nationwide network of pet fosters and transporters. Visitors to the website can search for available foster pets by zip code, as well as by type of animal, breed, sex, age or size.

“Fostering is such an integral part of rescue,” Eastwood noted. “It helps save more lives. If you can find fosters and get animals out of the shelters, it’s a win-win. You create more space in the shelters and the animal goes from a traumatic environment into a loving, calm environment in a home that provides socialization.”

Rescue groups that sign up with FosterFurkids.com supply food, beds, leashes, bowls, litter and veterinary care to the foster family. And pet transporters can also sign up to drive animals from shelters to their foster or forever family.

According to Eastwood, the importance of fostering is something that she feels has not been getting the attention it deserves. Fostering helps keep open spaces in rescue organizations, which do not have their own facilities. Most fostering and transporting occurs via word of mouth, which has a limited reach.

“Being a foster is a great way to have a dog or cat without the expense and long-term commitment,” Eastwood explained. “Every pet placed in a foster home opens up valuable space for a rescue organization to take in another shelter animal before it might be euthanized.”

Whenever the opportunity arises, Eastwood does her part fostering dogs or cats. Her garage has been converted into a cattery, which means anywhere between five and 10 cats and kittens are either arriving or being transported to their forever homes.

“It’s not glamorous, but it’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work,” she said of her experience fostering animals. “We use FosterFurkids.com ourselves. We had a pit bull that we rescued. He was going to be euthanized because he was epileptic. He was considered ‘special needs’ and ‘medical.’ Nobody was taking him so we took him and found a foster on our own website.”

Eastwood’s celebrity friends have also done their part in providing support to animal welfare groups, non-kill shelters, rescues and sanctuaries. She recently adopted two dogs to Charlize Theron and her mother. Eastwood also points to actress Denise Richards as someone who does work fostering animals and supporting rescue groups.

“She’s turned her garage into a rescue cattery as well,” Eastwood said. “It’s lovely when they support [the animal rescue cause]. When she’s here and not off doing a movie, she’s fostering rescue animals and finding them homes.”

Another celebrity Eastwood has worked with is Kristen Bell, who played the title character in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and gained further recognition when she voiced Princess Anna in the Disney film “Frozen.” Bell, who is currently receiving critical acclaim for her starring role in the fantasy comedy TV series, “The Good Place,” has been vocal about her attitude toward animals and pets.

“I have treated all my dogs like my kids,” Bell said to PEOPLE in June 2017. “To me, they’re just kids I didn’t birth.”

Bell fostered a needy pet from the Eastwood Ranch Foundation in April 2017. She celebrated by taking to Instagram to post a photo of herself with a 5-month-old terrier mix named Muppet along with the following message: “Reading a script outdoors and snuggling our new foster pup Muppet, captain of the scaredy cats. I’m enjoying the read and the fresh Carolina breeze while Muppet keeps a close eye on a Lemon tree she feels has nefarious intentions. @eastwoodranch #adoptdontshop #fosterdogs #fosterdogsofinstagram #adopt”

Eastwood followed Bell’s post with her own, sharing more photos of Muppet and a description of a perfect forever home for the pup.

“She will need a patient, calm home as she is a little timid but she’s learning to trust,” the description read. “Please email us at info@eastwoodranch.org.”

“Kristen fostered that dog for a couple of months, until she found it a great home with a friend of hers,” Eastwood recalled. “She’s a lovely girl.”

While FosterFurkids.com handles the matching, it’s the rescue groups that handle the vetting of fosters and volunteer transporters. And although it’s unknown how many matches have been made on the online database, Eastwood believes the sky is the limit.

“We still have a ways to go,” she said. “We’re running a marathon, not a sprint. We’re in it for the long haul. We are hoping more and more people spread the word.”

Eastwood admits that this journey is going to be an uphill climb, and it’s one that will not succeed without the public’s assistance.

“I would love everybody’s support to help promote the fostering website and get people to check it out and sign up,” she said. “People can make a huge difference without a lot of commitment. People are just starting to understand how important fostering is and how they can make a difference in an animal’s life by doing it.”

Posed with the question of what can be done to stem the overwhelming number of homeless dogs, Eastwood acknowledges it’s a daunting challenge. However, it’s not one that is insurmountable.

“We need to do more low-cost and free spaying and neutering, as well as reach out into the rural areas,” she explained. “You have to go out and educate people that spaying and neutering increases the lifespan of the animals, it makes them more comfortable and less likely to wander or escape. There’s a lot of misconceptions out there.

“I’m not trying to demonize men, but a lot of the cultural issue comes from this macho male thing where they don’t want to fix their male dog,” she continued. “And spaying a female dog is three times more expensive than getting a male dog neutered at the clinic.”

Eastwood has the full support of her husband, chainsaw carving sculptor Stacy Poitras, whom she credits with helping her see her dream come true.

“My husband is really wonderful,” she beamed. “If it wasn’t for him, I don’t think I could do this work. We do it together. He’s been nothing but supportive and completely hands-on, too. He’s cleaning litter boxes every day, washing and feeding and cleaning. Unfortunately, he gets stuck with the wiping of the butt. He gets the dirty work.”

When asked if she is in danger of one day becoming known as the “celebrity crazy cat lady,” she laughs.

“I love the term,” she said. “I would say I’m more ‘crazy’ and drop the ‘cat lady.’ I’m a crazy cat lady and a crazy dog lady.”

She pauses to further think about it.

“I’m going to end up being one of those crazy animal people, if I’m not already.”

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