14 Pet Lovers from the World of Pro Sports
The sports world was rocked in 2007 when news agencies got wind of NFL star quarterback Michael Vick’s involvement in a brutal dogfighting ring in rural Virginia. But if any silver lining can be found in this sickening scandal, it’s that the world’s attention was sharply focused on the problem of animal cruelty. And ever since then, a number of other athletes, coaches and owners have really stepped up their efforts to promote the humane treatment of animals by founding animal rescue foundations, doing poignant PSAs, or simply setting good examples with their own behavior. So let’s salute the pros who use their fame to raise awareness and money for the animals of the world that suffer unnecessarily. Here’s a list of 14 pet-loving people from the world of pro sports.
14. Novak Djokovic (Tennis)
There are tons of people out there who love their pets so much that they hardly go anywhere without them. Among them is the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic. At most tournaments, his miniature poodle, Pierre, can be seen sitting in the stands with Djokovic’s girlfriend, presumably cheering him on (we can’t be sure what the dog is actually thinking). This was not the case this past July, however, when officials at Wimbledon would not allow the pooch on the hallowed grounds of the All England Tennis Club. Fortunately, the big Serb didn’t let it affect his game. He won the tournament even without his lucky dog.
<13. Shane Mosely (Boxing)
Former boxing champ “Sugar” Shane Mosley used the hype surrounding his bout against Manny Pacquiao this past May to shed light on a good cause. The pugilist made appearances in both print and video ads for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) denouncing dogfighting as cruel and cowardly. He may have lost his title, but he probably won the hearts of millions.
12. Candace Parker (WNBA)
Los Angeles Sparks forward Candace Parker is another pro athlete who has recently took the time to appear in ads for PETA. The WNBA MVP, Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice winner, wife, mother, animal-lover, and dog-owner appears in an ad denouncing fur, and she makes a pretty good point: you wouldn’t wear your dog’s fur as a coat, so why would you wear the fur of other animals? Hopefully her young fans will get the message.
11. Tim Hudson (MLB)
Atlanta Braves pitcher and dog-owner Tim Hudson is always happy to give a little of his time to help charities devoted to animal welfare. So, when asked, he readily agreed to appear in photos with stray dogs from the Homeless Pets Foundation at the Braves’ Turner Field. Of course, this led to Hudson bringing home a companion for his Lab-mix, Kipper–a Dalmation-pointer mix he named Turner. According to Hudson, Turner “was injured and had health problems, and he was still a small puppy, so I felt sorry for the little thing.” Isn’t that always how it goes?
10. David Backes (NHL)
David Backes is a power forward for the St. Louis Blues of the NHL and an Olympic silver medalist. But in his spare time, he and his wife Kelly work to help find homes for abandoned pets. Each month they put the spotlight on three dogs (“David’s Dogs”) and three cats (“Kelly’s Kats”) in desperate need of loving homes. They are especially effective during the hockey season, when they have about 18,000 people to appeal to every couple of nights. In addition, they both serve on the board of directors for a St. Louis area pet shelter called Five Acres Animal Shelter.
9. Bobby Holik (NHL)
Recently retired NHLer Bobby Holik always liked to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life during the off-season, so he made a home for himself in remote Jackson, Wyoming. However, it seems there may have been a little too much peace and quiet out there in Wyoming, so Holik eventually adopted four dogs from a local shelter. Holik’s assessment of his pack of lovable strays? “They always keep things interesting.” Yes, I imagine they would.
8. Chase Utley (MLB)
Not only is this Philadelphia Philly one of baseball’s best players. He is also a heck of a guy who uses his celebrity status in one of America’s biggest pro sports markets to make a difference. In 2008, Chase and his wife (sorry ladies) have been organizing “Utley’s All-Star Animals” charity casino nights benefiting the Pennsylvania SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). The exclusive invite-only event generates big bucks for needy animals.
7. John Mara (NFL)
John and Denise Mara are co-owners of the New York Giants. So obviously, they are pretty well-off. But unlike those old-fashioned millionaires who insist on having only aristocratic pure-bread dogs, the Maras set a good example by taking in scruffy but lovable rescue dogs. Over the last 15 years or so, the dog-lovers have adopted 3 pets through New York Pet Rescue: a Yorkshire terrier names Ace, a bichon frise mix named Tucker, and a dachshund mix named Sophie. The world needs more cool rich people like them.
6. Greg Biffle (NASCAR)
NASCAR driver Greg Biffle and his wife Nicole founded the Greg Biffle Foundation for Animals back in 2005. The foundation seeks to create awareness and serve as an advocate for the well-being of animals. To this end, they donate money and other resources to various animal welfare institutions, such as no-kill shelters or spay-and-neuter clinics. And of course, the Biffles also help the cause by adopting their own pack of dogs from various shelters. They adopted a boxer mix named Savannah from a “high-kill” shelter in Georgia, and not long after they took in collie-Jack Russel mix found roaming their neighborhood.
5. Adrienne Maloof (NBA)
Adrienne Maloof is more than just a Real Housewife of Beverly Hills. This Sacramento Kings co-owner is also a real lover of animals. In 2002, Adrienne Maloof started donating big bucks to the Sacramento Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Her money has gone toward the founding of programs like “Camp Kindness” and “Animal Adventure Camp,” both of which aim to teach future citizens (i.e. children) about kindness, responsibility, and respect for animals.
4. Davis Love III (PGA)
Golfer Davis Love III may not be quite the activist as some of the other pros on this list, but he’s every bit the softy for poor animals in need of a home. This is evidenced by the fact that the man has 2 dogs and 10 cats (watch out, Mickey! It’s a trap!), all of them rescued from shelters. Perhaps his favorite of them all is a mutt named Greta. Love says when he saw her at the Brunswick, GA Human Society, “she looked like she needed someone to take her home.”
3. Tony La Russa (MLB)
The longtime St. Louis Cardinals skipper and his wife Elaine helped found the Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) in 1991. It’s a no-kill organization that works to find homes for needy animals. La Russa uses his connections in the world of sports to hold a number of star-powered charity events each year. And of course, the La Russas themselves currently have 5 dogs. One of them, named Griffin, had a bad leg and was scheduled to be put down when their daughter Bianca rescued him. Today he’s happily running all over the place. Another of their dogs, Willow, is apparently the spitting image of one of La Russa’s first rescues–a dog named Res who wandered off the Prima Indian Reservation in Arizona and into the Oakland A’s clubhouse during springtraining in 1993. La Rusa fondly calls Res G.D.O.A.T., the Greatest Dog of All Time. So to say Willow resembles Res is quite the compliment.
2. Mark Buehrle (MLB)
This Chicago White Sox ace pitcher and his wife Jamie are some of the most active and vocal dog-lovers in the world of pro sports. They have three dogs of their own, but have really taken their love of man’s best friend to the next level. The Beuhrles started a program called “Sox for Strays” that brings Chicago area animals rescue groups to U.S. Cellular Field throughout the baseball season for adoption drives. They also appear in adopt-a-pet advertisements–in fact, Mark is the one who turned the St. Louis Blues’ David Backes on to the idea. And last winter, after reading a horrible story about a dog found wandering around with an arrow stuck in its side in southern Illinois, the Buehrle’s donated the money to pay for the poor thing’s medical bills. Interestingly, Mark Buehrle’s outspoken advocacy for dogs got him into a bit of trouble this past offseason. He told a reporter in an interview that Michael Vick “had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt.” But in fairness to the Buehrles, he didn’t say he hoped Michael Vick broke his neck. Getting hurt can be as simple as spraining an ankle. And really, is that such a horrible thing to ask of karma?
1. Ryan Newman (NASCAR)
NASCAR driver Ryan Newman and his wife Krissie have published 2 books about pets: Pit Road Pets: NASCAR Stars and Their Pets, and Pit Road Pets 2: The Second Lap. The proceeds from both books have gone to animals welfare groups. Of course, as you would assume, the Newmans themselves have 4 rescue dogs. There is Digger, a German shepherd mix; Harley, a Lab-pit bull mix rescued from a puppy mill; Mopar, a true mutt that just wandered onto their property; and Socks, another Lab mix. Sox was actually one of four puppies rescued by the Newmans after neighbors called to tell them a stray dog was giving birth on their property. They found homes for three of them, but Ryan Newman couldn’t resist the runt of the litter, so they made Sox a permanent part of the family.